TOKYO: Japan said on Tuesday (Jul 6) that it would ship millions more doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to Asian neighbours this week as a continuation of bilateral donations.
Japan will send 1.13 million more doses to Taiwan on Thursday, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters at a regular press conference, after previously delivering 1.24 million doses last month.
A further 1 million doses each will be sent to Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam this week, following earlier donations to Indonesia and Malaysia, Motegi said.
“True friends always lend a hand when they need each other the most,” Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang wrote on his Facebook page.
In further good news for Taiwan’s vaccine programme, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters in Taipei that 620,000 additional AstraZeneca doses would arrive on Wednesday, part of the government’s direct order from the company.
Around 10 per cent of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people have received at least one of the two-shot vaccines. President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday that officials hope to get that to up to 25 per cent by the end of this month.
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Japan has arranged to buy 120 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, with most of that supply produced by domestic companies. Regulators approved the shot in May, but amid lingering concerns about blood clots, health authorities have relied on the mRNA-type vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna in Japan’s inoculation push.
Japan has pledged US$1 billion and 30 million doses to the global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX, but so far its donations have been outside of that programme.
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AstraZeneca doses produced in Japan have not yet been approved by the World Health Organization for use in COVAX, Motegi said, so the country has turned to bilateral deals to respond to “urgent requests for vaccine supplies”.
Japan’s first shipments through the COVAX facility are expected in the middle of this month, with some 11 million doses bound for nations in South Asia and the Pacific islands, Motegi said.
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