By Chang-Ran Kim and Rocky Swift
TOKYO (Reuters) -A Japan ruling party committee will recommend the government provide part of the national supply of COVID-19 vaccines secured from AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:) PLC to Taiwan, a party official said on Friday.
The move comes as Taiwan battles a spike in domestic infections and only about 1% of the population of more than 23 million have been vaccinated so far.
“We should provide Taiwan with vaccines as soon as possible,” Masahisa Sato, the head of a Japanese ruling party committee on Taiwan relations said at a press briefing.
“When Japan was in need Taiwan sent us 2 million masks,” he said.
Japan’s Sankei newspaper reported it earlier on Friday, citing government and ruling party sources.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry declined to directly comment on the report, but said the government was working hard to obtain vaccines either via manufacturers or the COVAX global sharing scheme.
It added that Taipei was also seeking “like-minded countries to help obtain vaccines, and efforts have not ceased”.
Japan approved AstraZeneca’s vaccine last week and has contracted to buy 120 million doses. But there are no immediate plans to use the shots in the country, amid lingering concerns raised internationally over blood clots.
AstraZeneca’s local partner Daiichi Sankyo Co started bottling the vaccine in March and the stockpile is currently estimated at around 30 million doses which will expire by September if not used.
The amount is set to increase as AstraZeneca added Nipro Corp this week as its third local partner to conduct filling and packaging of the vaccine.
Japan started its inoculation drive in mid-February, later than most major economies and using imported doses of the shot developed by Pfizer Inc (NYSE:) and BioNTech SE (NASDAQ:).
A vaccine developed by Moderna (NASDAQ:) also went into use this week with the opening of mass vaccination centres.
Japan will likely keep some of AstraZeneca’s adenovirus-type shots for people with allergies to mRNA-type vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna, and give away the rest, said Haruka Sakamoto, a physician and researcher at Keio University in Tokyo.
“Japan will probably announce that they will donate the AZ vaccine that they already have a contract with and supply COVAX with the AZ vaccine they will produce in Japan,” she said.
An AstraZeneca spokeswoman said it was up to the Japanese government how the doses were used.
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