The health ministry said Friday it is negotiating with Moderna Inc. to secure enough coronavirus vaccine from the U.S. drug firm to cover 20 million people within the first half of 2021.
The over 40 million doses of the expected vaccine are expected to be distributed and sold by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., with two doses required per person.
Moderna is one of the U.S. drugmakers seeing the most progress in the race to develop a cure for the novel coronavirus. If the ministry and Moderna reach a deal, it will be a major step toward the government’s goal of securing enough medicine to inoculate everyone in Japan in the first half of 2021.
The ministry has already reached basic agreements with U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc. to cover 60 million people and with British drug giant AstraZeneca PLC for 120 million doses.
It remains to be seen, however, whether AstraZeneca’s vaccine will require one or two doses per person. Under the procurement deal with Japan, the supply would cover 60 million people if two doses are required.
Despite having secured enough vaccine for at least 120 million people from the latter two firms, the government is trying to prepare for unexpected contingencies by pursuing the deal with Moderna.
The ministry is believed to be in talks with other drugmakers as well, as there is no assurance that any of the vaccines will work even if they reach clinical trials, the final stage of development.
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