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Japan plans to obtain most of AstraZeneca vaccines domestically

Japan said Thursday it will purchase the majority of 120 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine from domestic manufacturers, as problems with overseas production have raised concerns about timely distribution.

AstraZeneca curtailed supplies promised by the European Union and Australia. Thailand also confirmed this week to cut supplies from AstraZeneca.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said on Thursday that the British-Swedish company has confirmed to the Japanese Ministry of Health that more than 90 million doses will be produced in the country.

“We think it is very important to be able to produce vaccines locally,” Cato told reporters.

Japan has arranged to purchase 120 million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, with Daiichi Sankyo Co, JCR Pharmaceuticals Co and other local partners agreeing to make and distribute the vaccines.

While AstraZeneca began Japanese trials of a vaccine last summer, ahead of a Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc., it has not yet filed for Japanese approval of its formula, leaving the only competitive shot currently under review in the country.

AstraZeneca did not immediately respond when contacted by Reuters for comment.

Japan plans to start a vaccination campaign in late February, with Pfizer vaccinating for frontline medical workers.

The country follows most major economies in initiating vaccination due to its dependence on manufacturers abroad and the requirement that vaccines pass local trials.

Japan faces major logistical hurdles that some experts say will make it difficult for it to vaccinate a large portion of its population ahead of the scheduled start of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo from July.

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