• Kyodo, Bloomberg

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The Japanese government is preparing to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam as the country struggles to procure enough doses for its citizens amid a spike in coronavirus infections, a lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Saturday.

Upper House lawmaker Masahisa Sato, who heads the ruling party's Foreign Affairs Division, said on a television program that the government has started making arrangements with Vietnam.

Japan is expected to donate doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC of Britain. On Friday, Japan sent a total of 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered its appreciation in a statement.

While Japan has secured enough AstraZeneca doses for 60 million people and approved its use last month, it does not intend to use them immediately in public inoculation programs after rare cases of blood clots were reported overseas.

The Yomiuri Shimbun daily also reported that Japan would send vaccines to Malaysia.

Despite being touted as a model for containing the outbreak, Vietnam has been facing a resurgence of infections since late April, with its health authorities reporting a hybrid coronavirus variant that combines characteristics of the strains first detected in Britain and India.

According to recent surveys, just over 1% of Vietnam's population had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Thursday. The figure is the lowest among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Japan’s number of daily infections has come down steadily since the government extended a state of emergency for major cities, including Tokyo and Osaka. New cases fell to 2,595 on Friday from a recent peak of 7,236 in early May, according to NHK.

The country’s vaccine rollout is picking up pace with the seven-day average of doses quadrupling in just two weeks.

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