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Japan is now the largest importer of COVID-19 vaccines from the European Union, depending heavily on the bloc for vaccine supplies, it has been learned.

The EU had approved exports totaling around 178 million vaccine doses to 45 countries and regions as of Monday, an EU spokesperson said at a news conference.

Of the total, 72 million doses, or about 40%, were destined for Japan, followed by 18.5 million doses for the U.K. and 18.4 million doses for Canada. Initially, EU vaccine exports to Japan had been far fewer than those to the U.K. and Canada.

In late January, the EU introduced a temporary system requiring prior approval for vaccine shipments outside the region, in the face of a drop in vaccine supplies from British drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC. The system will be effective until the end of June.

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