Japan to ship millions more COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan, Asian neighbors this week

Japan said on Tuesday, July 6, it would ship millions more doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to Asian neighbors this week as a continuation of bilateral donations.

Japan will send about 1.1 million more doses to Taiwan on Thursday, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters at a regular press conference, after previously delivering 1.24 million doses last month.

A further 1 million doses each will be sent to Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam this week, following earlier donations to Indonesia and Malaysia, Motegi said.

"True friends always lend a hand when they need each other the most," Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang wrote on his Facebook page.

Japan has arranged to buy 120 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, with most of that supply produced by domestic companies. Regulators approved the shot in May, but amid lingering concerns about blood clots, health authorities have relied on the mRNA-type vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna in Japan's inoculation push.

Japan has pledged $1 billion and 30 million doses to the global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX, but so far its donations have been outside of that program.

AstraZeneca doses produced in Japan have not yet been approved by the World Health Organization for use in COVAX, Motegi said, so the country has turned to bilateral deals to respond to "urgent requests for vaccine supplies."

Japan's first shipments through the COVAX facility are expected in the middle of this month, with some 11 million doses bound for nations in south Asia and the Pacific islands, Motegi said.  – Rappler.com