Tokyo (AFP)

Japan announced Thursday to suspend the use of 1.63 million doses of the vaccine of the American biotech Moderna against the coronavirus, after reports of the presence of impurities in some vials of these products.

The Japanese pharmaceutical group Takeda, which imports and distributes Moderna's vaccine in Japan, said in a statement that it had received "reports from several vaccination centers that foreign bodies were found" in sealed vaccine vials.

"After consultation with the Department of Health, we have decided to suspend the use" of all vaccines from three batches as of Thursday, or 1.63 million doses in total, Takeda added.

The Japanese group has asked Moderna to conduct an "urgent investigation" into the batches, which according to local media were produced in Spain.

Asked by AFP, the American biotech was not immediately available to react to this information.

Contaminants were found in 39 sealed vials of vaccines at eight different vaccination centers in Japan, including Tokyo, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

These vials all came from only one of the three lots withdrawn from distribution in Japan.

The use of the other two batches was stopped as a precaution, government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said on Thursday.

"For now, there is no indication that doses containing these contaminants have been administered" to people, he added during a regular press briefing.

Therefore, "we have not had any feedback" on possible health damage associated with injecting such suspicious doses, Kato added.

The medical staff who inject the doses also inspect the vials with the naked eye before preparing and injecting doses, said the Japanese Ministry of Defense, which manages mass vaccination centers in the country. .

The Ministry of Health will cooperate with Takeda to distribute alternative doses, in order to avoid an interruption of the national immunization program which has been accelerating for several months after a slow start.

A nurse injects a patient with a dose of the Moderna vaccine against the Covid-19, June 25, 2021 in Tokyo Rodrigo Reyes Marin POOL / AFP / Archives

About 43% of the population of Japan is fully vaccinated.

But that does not prevent the country from currently grappling with record levels of daily infections, due in particular to the Delta variant, which is more resistant and more contagious.

Most of the archipelago is now affected by restrictions against Covid-19, but these remain limited and their effectiveness questionable, the coercive means of the government to impose them being limited.

© 2021 AFP