• Kyodo, Jiji

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Japanese drugmaker Shionogi & Co. is planning to provide a coronavirus vaccine within the year if conditions are met, its president said Monday.

It would be the first domestically produced vaccine for the virus.

With COVID-19 vaccines developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. and other drugmakers already in use around the world, securing enough study participants for large-scale clinical trials has become a barrier for latecomers such as Shionogi.

Shionogi is currently discussing with the health ministry a framework that would enable the efficacy and safety of the vaccine to be evaluated even with small-scale trials.

The company hopes “to contribute to the early containment of the coronavirus pandemic through the concentrated investment of management resources,” Shionogi President Isao Teshirogi said during a virtual news conference.

It has already completed a production line capable of delivering vaccine doses for 10 million people per year, and plans to further increase capacity.

Also Monday, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. said its domestic clinical trial has confirmed that a COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. partner Moderna Inc. helped increase antibodies in everyone who was vaccinated.

“No major safety concerns were reported,” Takeda Pharmaceutical said in a statement after submitting the result to a Japanese administrative body, the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will make a decision on whether to give the vaccine the green light as early as May 20, based on the agency’s review.

Separately, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Tuesday that the government will commission some of the work for operating Self-Defense Forces-run mass vaccinating venues to the private sector for ¥3.7 billion, as Japan tries to speed up its rollout.

“By actively utilizing the power of the private sector, we are making efforts to begin vaccinations as early as possible,” Kishi told a news conference.

Temp agency Career Co. will be paid ¥763.7 million for dispatching 200 nurses to the SDF-run mass vaccination sites in Tokyo and Osaka.

Nippon Travel Agency Co. will undertake clerical work such as vaccination record management at the Tokyo site for ¥1.95 billion, while Tobu Top Tours Co. will handle the clerical work at the Osaka site for ¥966.5 million.

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