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Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. asked regulators Friday to approve the use of Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine, which would allow it to become the third vaccine to figure in a national inoculation effort begun last month.

Takeda, which is handling domestic approval and imports of about 50 million Moderna doses, announced the filing. It has earlier said approval could be given in May.

“Takeda commits to delivering Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Japan as soon as possible,” Masayuki Imagawa, the head of the firm’s Japan vaccines business unit, said in a statement.

Japan kicked off its inoculations in the middle of February using Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine, the first to be approved for domestic use. But Pfizer doses, imported from European factories, are in short supply.

AstraZeneca PLC applied for Japanese approval of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate early in February, and that decision is still pending.

Takeda is also handling the approval process and domestic production of about 250 million doses of Novavax Inc.’s vaccine, which entered clinical trials in Japan late last month.

While awaiting regulatory approval, Takeda plans to start distributing the Moderna vaccine in the first half of this year, while that of Novavax is expected in late 2021.

Japan has secured rights to at least 564 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from several overseas makers, the largest volume in Asia and more than enough for its population of 126 million.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to have enough vaccine doses for the population by June before the July 23 start of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, postponed from last year because of the virus.

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