Blocked by the EU's export ban, Japan got its first AstraZeneca vaccines from the US instead

·2 min read
Japan vaccine vaccination COVID-19
A medical worker receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine on March 5, 2021, in Tokyo. Yoshikazu Tsuno - Pool/Getty Images
  • Japan received a cargo of AstraZeneca vaccine from the US, the company told local media Thursday.

  • Japan wanted to source doses from the EU, but couldn't since the bloc banned exports in January.

  • The US too has been criticized for stockpiling doses of the vaccine, which it has not approved.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Japan's first AstraZeneca vaccines are coming from the US, not the EU, after the bloc restricted vaccine exports in January, Reuters reported on Thursday.

The company had planned to import the vaccine from Europe, Tomoo Tanaka, AstraZeneca's head of vaccine development, said in an interview with Asahi Shimbun on Thursday, Reuters reported.

But restriction on vaccine exports imposed by the EU in January led to a change in plans. Instead, Japan imported undiluted vaccines from the US, Tanaka.

Reuters confirmed the news with an AstraZeneca spokesperson.

The Japanese government has ordered enough doses of the two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine for its 60 million population, around half the population, the Japan Times reported.

90 million doses of the vaccine will be produced domestically by local companies Daiichi Sankyo, JCR Pharmaceuticals Co, and others, Reuters reported.

Daiichi Sankyo said on March 12 it had started manufacturing the vaccine "using undiluted solutions provided by AstraZeneca," the company said in a press release. It is not clear whether they were waiting on undiluted vaccine doses from abroad.

The EU announced on March 24 that it would again restrict vaccine exports for six weeks, in a bid to keep up with supply issues among the member states.

The bloc had previously said it authorized requests for millions of doses of vaccines to be shipped to 29 countries, including Japan, Reuters reported on March 5.

The US came under scrutiny when it was found that it had blocked the export of doses of the AstraZeneca shot.

Millions of doses were stockpiled in vaccine plants on US soil, even though the country had not approved the shot. As of April 1, it still has not.

Speaking on the issue of vaccine supply, President Joe Biden said at the time that Americans should be "taken care of first."

Since then, the US has shipped doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico and Canada, as a loan. Details about the conditions under which Japan has received doses from the US were not immediately clear.

Last week, AstraZeneca had to revise its US trial efficacy data downwards from 79% to 76% after US health officials said the company used outdated data in their first submission.

More experts are calling for the US to export their AstraZeneca vaccine doses, because, although it is likely that the vaccine will be approved by the FDA, it might come too late for the US vaccine rollout, Insider's Andy Dunn reported.

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