Japan: Foreign material in Covid vax vials puts shots on hold

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Tokyo, Sep 1 (IANS) As Japan continues to find black and pink particles in the Moderna Covid vaccine vials, it has temporarily halted the inoculation programmes in many regions, say media reports.

Last week, the Japanese Health Ministry reported the death of two men after they received two vaccine jabs.

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According to the authorities, a pharmacist saw several black particles in one vial of the vaccine in Kanagawa Prefecture, the BBC reported.

The pharmacist found the black particles while checking for foreign substances before the vaccine’s use.

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So far, there is no evidence of any health hazards caused by the potentially contaminated vaccine, the report said.

Okinawa Prefecture halted administering the Moderna vaccine at a mass vaccination centre in Naha on Saturday and Sunday last week after four instances of black dot-like particulate matter were confirmed inside loaded syringes and a punctured vial. However, the usual pre-usage examination of the vials did not confirm any foreign materials inside, the Japan Times reported.

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A total of five foreign substances have been identified related to lot number 3005293, including a pink substance, that was detected inside a loaded syringe in Okinawa last Saturday.

On August 26, the Japan Health Ministry had said the foreign substances have been found in 39 unused vials at eight vaccination sites in five prefectures, Xinhua reported.

The same day, nearly 1.63 million doses that came from the same production line of a Spanish factory were suspended for use as a precaution.

However, more than 5,00,000 shots have already been administered from the potentially contaminated batches, said Taro Kono, the Minister in-charge of the vaccination effort.

Although the foreign substances had been confirmed since August 16, the Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical, which is in charge of the sale and distribution of the Moderna vaccine in Japan, waited until August 25 to report the problem to the country’s Health Ministry.

Last week, Takeda put three batches of the Moderna vaccine on hold after “foreign materials” were found in some doses of a batch of nearly 5,60,000 vials.

Spanish pharmaceutical firm Rovi, which bottles the vaccine, said in a statement that a manufacturing line in Spain could be the cause of the issue, the BBC report said.

In a joint statement issued last Saturday, Moderna and Takeda said they were working with the Health Ministry to investigate the two deaths.

However, the two companies said they have not found any evidence that these deaths were caused by the Moderna vaccine.

Japan’s vaccination roll-out has been relatively slow, with just over 40 per cent of the Japanese people fully vaccinated and nearly 50 per cent having received a single dose.

–IANS

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