Contaminated Moderna Vaccine Leads to Deaths in Japan

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Source: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg

According to Japan’s health ministry, two people have died after receiving doses of the Moderna vaccine from a contaminated batch.

Japan is currently facing its worst COVID-19 outbreak, reporting an average of 22,000 cases a day. However, along with the rising cases, the country is also facing a high amount of vaccine hesitancy. Previously, a Lancet study had shown Japan to have the lowest vaccine confidence in the world. Now, the country recently suspended 1.63 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, considered contaminated. Experts predict the action might further fuel vaccine hesitancy in the region.

On August 26th, Japan’s health ministry announced a halt to the use of 1.63 million Moderna doses. These belonged to lot numbers 3004667, 3004734 and 3004956. However, nearly 900 vaccination centres across Japan had already received the vials from the three lot numbers. And around 500,000 of the contaminated doses had been administered prior to the suspension. The decision was a result of the presence of foreign substances in some vials.

Earlier on Sunday, two Japanese prefectures also temporarily suspended the rollout of the Moderna vaccine after discovering foreign substances in the batches. Officials in the prefectures Gunma and Okinawa had reported finding a tiny black dot and pink substances in the vials and syringes.

Two Die in Japan

According to health authorities, the black foreign object was likely a result of the incorrect insertion of the needles. Thus, causing the bits of the black rubber to break off and enter the vial. However, no explanation has been provided for the presence of the pink substance so far. Moreover, Japan’s health ministry does not believe that the contaminated vials pose any safety or efficacy risk.

The risk that the foreign material causes some kind of a disease at the spot where it was injected or that it circulates in the body’s blood and causes a disease after an intramusclar injection through a 0.25 millimeter needle would be extremely unlikely.

Dr. Takeshi Terashima in conversation with Japan’s TBS News

Despite experts claiming the vials as safe, reports of two deaths have come forward in Japan. Both men were in their 30s and had three days earlier received a shot from the contaminated Moderna batch. None of the men had a history of allergic reactions or suffered from any co-morbids.

Currently, no link has been confirmed between these deaths and the Moderna vaccine, but we believe it is important to carry out a formal probe to investigate the matter further.

Takeda Pharmaceutical Company

The three suspended lots came from Rovi, a Spanish company that manufactures Moderna doses for non-American distribution. They described the foreign substance as ‘particulate matter’ and are further investigating the contaminated lots. Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, a distributor of the Moderna vaccine in Japan, will publish results from laboratory tests of the samples in a few days.

Source: Japan’s Health Ministry

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