Tokyo (AFP)

The Okinawa region in Japan suspended the use of the Moderna vaccine against Covid-19 on Sunday after the discovery of new contaminated batches, local authorities said.

This decision comes the day after the opening of an investigation by the Japanese Ministry of Health after the death of two men who received Moderna vaccines from 1.63 million doses which had impurities in some vials.

The Okinawa prefecture, located in southern Japan, decided on Sunday to "suspend the use of Moderna vaccines because foreign substances have been spotted in some" batches, according to a statement.

The lots affected by this contamination, detected Saturday in Okinawa, are different from those suspended after the discovery of impurities in some vials of this product, according to local media.

The move comes the day after the Japanese Ministry of Health announced the death in August of two men, aged 30 and 38, who had received a second dose of Moderna from one of three suspended batches. on August 26 by the government.

The ministry announced the opening of an investigation to determine the cause of their death, specifying that "the link of cause and effect with the vaccination remains to this day unknown".

"At this time, we have no evidence that these deaths were caused by the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and it is important to conduct an investigation to determine if there is a link," said in a report on Saturday. joint Moderna and Takeda press release, which imports and distributes in the Japanese archipelago.

The nature of the particles found in the vials, which were manufactured by a Moderna subcontractor in Europe, is not yet known.

"The vials have been sent to a lab for analysis and the first conclusions will be known early next week," Moderna and Takeda said.

The American company assumes that the problem stems from a production line of its subcontractor in Spain, Rovi, which produces its Covid-19 vaccines for markets outside the United States.

Rovi said Aug. 26 to investigate the cause of the contamination of these batches, distributed only in Japan.

About 44% of the Japanese population has been fully vaccinated, as the country faces a record increase in the number of cases of the virus linked to the more contagious Delta variant.

More than 15,800 people have died from Covid-19 in the country, mostly subject to health restrictions in an attempt to stem the pandemic.

© 2021 AFP