Japan yesterday suspended the use of 1.63mn doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, more than a week after the domestic distributor received reports of contaminants in some vials.
Both Japan and Moderna said no safety or efficacy issues had been identified and the suspension was just a precaution.
But the move prompted several Japanese companies to cancel worker vaccinations planned for yesterday.
“Moderna confirms having been notified of cases of particulate matter being seen in drug product vials of its Covid-19 vaccine,” the US vaccine maker said in a statement, adding it put the lot in question and two adjacent lots on hold.
“The company is investigating the reports and remains committed to working expeditiously with its partner, Takeda, and regulators to address this,” it added, referring to Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical, which distributes the vaccine in the country.
A health ministry official said Takeda first found out about the contaminated vials on August 16 and reported the issue to the government on Wednesday.
The delay was because Takeda needed time to gather information on which vials were affected and where they were in the country, the official said.
Moderna said the contamination could be due to a manufacturing issue in one of the production lines at its contract manufacturing site in Spain.
A spokesperson for the company added that the affected production batch, plus two more batches held back out of caution because they were processed before and after the affected batches, were meant for distribution only in Japan.
Spanish pharma company Rovi, which bottles or “fills and finishes” Moderna vaccines for markets other than the US, said it is investigating possible contamination of Moderna doses and the issue appeared to be limited to a few batches bound for Japan.
Shares in Rovi dropped 4.6%.
The suspension is a fresh setback for Moderna, whose partners had production delays last month that disrupted supplies to countries including South Korea.
Japan’s defence ministry, which operates a mass vaccination site in Osaka, said shots from the lot in question, which contains 565,400 doses, had been used in the western prefecture between August 6 and August 20, but it did not say how many people were affected.
Japanese carrier ANA said about 4,700 shots of the halted Moderna lot had been used and all vaccinations planned for yesterday had been stopped.
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