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Japan has pre-ordered COVID-19 vaccine doses for more than four times its population, says report

Japan has procurement deals with half of the companies leading the COVID-19 vaccine development race, according to GlobalData.

Japanese flag (white wth red central circle) with two syringes labelled 'COVID-19 vaccine' on top

According to a new study, Japan reserved approximately $6.32bn from its emergency budget to secure COVID-19 vaccines. The report states the country is “aggressively making efforts to vaccinate its population… with a strong focus on signing pre-orders”. So far, Japan has signed multiple deals with AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax, such that its pre-ordered doses exceed four times the country’s actual population.

GlobalData said that in October 2020, Takeda Pharmaceuticals entered a deal with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to supply 50 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. At that time, Japan had already agreed to purchase 120 million doses of both AstraZeneca and Pfizer’s vaccines. Under another deal, Takeda is preparing to manufacture and distribute Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine with funding support from the government.

The top six companies in the global COVID-19 vaccine race are: Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sinovac and Sinopharm. Of these, only Pfizer and AstraZeneca have initiated trials in the Japanese population. Moderna’s trial is set to start in January 2021.

Bhavani Nelavelly, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, said this is important because “Japan is one of the very few countries that require additional clinical trials within the country to ensure safety. With a comparatively small COVID-19 outbreak in Japan, a valid assessment in a late-stage trial in Japan will be difficult to effectively demonstrate the high efficacy of the vaccines confirmed globally. However, this may be sufficient to demonstrate safety.

“With Japan’s indigenous vaccines still at Phase II stage of development, it is a wise strategy by the country to sign multiple deals keeping in mind that some of the vaccines could fail in clinical trials or the vaccines may require more than one dose.”

According to GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Center, there are 17 Japanese organisations working on COVID-19 vaccine development. AnGes and UMN Pharma are the only ones in the Phase II stage of COVID-19 vaccine development.

Graph showing which stages Japanese Companies' COVID-19 vaccine development at - majority is preclinical stage

Japan has already passed a bill to give free COVID-19 vaccines to all its residents and reserved approximately $6.32bn from the emergency budget to secure COVID-19 vaccines.

Nelavelly concluded: “Based on the current clinical development, indigenous vaccines may not be available at least until 2022 in Japan. The country lags global-front runners with vaccines that are already approved in western nations. Pfizer has already filed for fast-track approval for its vaccine and it does not require large scale trials in Japan. Considering the difficulty in vaccine development, Japan is using the strategic approach of getting vaccines from different companies, which allows complete vaccination of residents even if there are any development failures for domestic vaccines.”

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