The government has decided to facilitate large-scale manufacturing of coronavirus vaccines by launching a subsidy program for producers, government sources said Friday.
By providing financial assistance for preparing production facilities at an early stage, the government hopes to make vaccines available to people soon after they are deemed suitable for use. The size of the investment will be tied to progress made, the sources said.
More than 110 coronavirus vaccine development projects are underway worldwide, with some in the clinical testing phase, according to a World Health Organization list.
Six projects are located in Japan, led by organizations such as the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying clinical trials in the country are expected to start as early as July.
Under the envisioned program, the Japanese government will publicly seek firms for the sale and production of vaccines and provide funds for the promising candidates, whose efficiency and safety have been confirmed in clinical trials in Japan or abroad.
But many experts say a vaccine is unlikely to be approved this year, and that it may take up to a year once one is found before it can be supplied to everyone, meaning Japan may have to consider who should be given priority for receiving it.
As an international race intensifies, British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca Plc, which has been given more than $1 billion by the United States, said Thursday it has the capacity to supply a vaccine — now in development at the University of Oxford — from September, if clinical trials are successful.
On Monday, U.S. biotechnology company Moderna Inc. reported positive interim clinical results of its vaccine candidate, showing antibodies in eight people it gave doses to, and said it will start a large-scale clinical test in July.