Japan’s Okinawa region suspended the use of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine on Sunday after further contamination was discovered, the local government said.
It comes a day after Japan’s health ministry said it was investigating the deaths of two men who were injected with contaminated batches of Moderna – although the cause of their deaths is unknown.
Okinawa Prefecture in southern Japan said Sunday’s vaccination schedule had been partially postponed.
“We are suspending the use of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines because foreign substances have been spotted in some of them,” he said in a statement.
The lots affected by the contamination spotted in Okinawa on Saturday are different from the 1.63 doses suspended after the two deaths, according to local media.
The suspension came after the health ministry said two men, aged 30 and 38, died in early August after receiving their second dose of Moderna.
These doses were taken from one of three batches suspended by the government on Thursday after several vials were found to be contaminated.
The ministry said, however, that it was investigating the cause of death and it is currently unknown whether there is a causal link to the vaccine.
“At this time, we have no evidence that these deaths are caused by the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and it is important to conduct a formal investigation to determine if there is a link,” Moderna and its distributor said. Japanese Takeda in a joint statement on Saturday.
The nature of the particles found in the vials, which were manufactured by a Moderna subcontractor in Europe, is not yet known either.
“The vials have been sent to a qualified laboratory for analysis and the first results will be available early next week,” Moderna and Takeda said.
The subcontractor, the Spanish pharmaceutical firm ROVI, said in a statement Thursday that it was investigating the cause of the contamination of the batch, which was distributed only in Japan.
He added that the problem could be with one of its manufacturing lines.
About 44% of Japan’s population has been fully vaccinated, as the country battles a record spate of coronavirus cases driven by the more contagious Delta variant.
More than 15,800 people have died from Covid-19 in Japan, and large parts of the country are under strict virus restrictions.
© 2021 AFP