Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture yesterday suspended the use of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine after contamination was found, the prefecture government said.
It comes a day after the Japanese Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare said it was investigating the death of two men who received shots from tainted Moderna batches — although the cause of their death is unknown.
Okinawa authorities said that yesterday’s vaccination program has been partially postponed.
“We are suspending the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines as foreign substances were spotted in some of them,” the prefecture government said in a statement.
The lots affected by the contamination spotted in Okinawa are different from the 1.63 million doses suspended after the two deaths, local media reported.
That suspension came after the health ministry said that two men, aged 30 and 38, died earlier this month after getting their second Moderna doses.
Those doses were drawn from one of three batches suspended by the Japanese government on Thursday after several vials were found to be contaminated.
The ministry said that it was investigating the cause of death.
It is unknown if there is a causal link with the vaccine.
“At this time, we do not have any evidence that these deaths are caused by the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and it is important to conduct a formal investigation to determine whether there is any connection,” Moderna and its Japanese distributor Takeda said in a joint statement on Saturday.
The nature of the particles found in the vials, which were manufactured by a Moderna contractor in Europe, is also not known yet.
“The vials have been sent to a qualified lab for analysis, and initial findings will be available early next week,” Moderna and Takeda said.
The contractor, Spanish pharmaceutical firm ROVI, on Thursday said in a statement that it was investigating the cause of the contamination in the batch, which was only distributed in Japan.
It added that the issue might have originated on one of its manufacturing lines.
About 44 percent of Japan’s population has been fully vaccinated, as the country battles a record surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the more contagious Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2.
More than 15,800 people have died from COVID-19 in Japan, and large parts of the country are under strict virus restrictions.
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