TOKYO, June 25 (Reuters) – Japan announced on Friday that it will send 2 million additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) to Taiwan and Vietnam and that arrangements are being made to send 1 million doses each in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The direct donations, which are expected to help Japan increase its diplomatic influence in Asia, come as wealthy countries are pressured to provide more doses to the global COVAX vaccine-sharing program to cover a shortfall of 200 million doses. Read more
While densely populated low-income countries serve as incubators for new, more dangerous strains of the coronavirus, some of the poorest countries have vaccinated less than 1% of their population, according to estimates from Gavi, a global vaccine alliance that manages COVAX with the World Health Organization.
Japan has pledged $ 1 billion and 30 million doses to the COVAX facility and said this month that its direct shipments to its Asian neighbors are made outside of COVAX to expedite delivery. Read more
Japan donated 1.24 million doses to Taiwan and 1 million to Vietnam this month and plans to share an additional 1 million doses each with the two.
A Taipei-based official familiar with Japan’s two vaccine donations said that while the Japanese government has been subtle in its offers, focusing mainly on Taiwan’s urgent medical needs, there was a broader message.
The donations are in fact an important move to echo America’s campaign for a free and open Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s geopolitical influence in the region, the person said, speaking under the guise of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the media.
Taiwan has accused China of blocking its access to foreign vaccines, which Beijing denies. The island, which China claims as its own territory, also received 2.5 million doses of the vaccine from the United States this month.
Japan relies on 120 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine it has set aside as it has no immediate plans to use home injections due to continuing concerns over international clot reports blood.
Its Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Friday that Japan would start supplying a total of 11 million doses to regions such as Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia and the Pacific Islands via COVAX from mid-July.
Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo, writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Jacqueline Wong
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