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Public frustration over Japan’s slow vaccine rollout is intensifying after it emerged the EU approved the export of more than 50 million COVID-19 shots to the country this year, the most among nations the bloc is shipping to, Bloomberg reports.

Vaccines minister Taro Kono has countered that only 28 million shots from Pfizer had arrived in Japan — although either way, less than 1% of the nation’s 126 million population has been fully vaccinated, and only about 3.5 million jabs have been given.

The first batch of Moderna’s vaccine also arrived in Japan on Friday, with the government planning to use it at mass vaccination centers following expected approval around May 21.

Moderna vaccines arrive in Japan | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN
Moderna vaccines arrive in Japan | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN

The slow rollout is raising concerns that the variant now devastating India could be given time to circulate in Japan. As Osamu Tsukimori explains, evidence suggests that the majority of Japanese face a higher risk of infection from the Indian and Californian strains of the virus. Twenty-one cases of the Indian variant had been detected in Japan as of last Monday.

Several Japanese companies, meanwhile, are in the process of producing their own vaccines, but with inoculations already in full swing in many countries, large-scale clinical trials are proving difficult to organize. A cross-border coalition of medicine regulators is now exploring alternatives.

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