TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Health Ministry on Tuesday officially approved Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine, a fourth overseas-developed tool to fight infections as the country sees signs of a virus-led resurgence. subvariant of the fast-spreading omicron.
The ministry’s approval comes a day after its expert panel endorsed the use of Novavax’s protein vaccine, which is designed with similar technology used to fight diseases such as influenza and hepatitis B. , for the first two vaccines and a booster.
Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto told reporters that the Novavax product adds variety to the choices available and could appeal to those hesitant to use COVID-19 vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna, which are designed with technologies most recent.
Injections using the Novavax vaccine should begin as early as the end of May.
Japan reported 24,164 new cases on Monday, according to the health ministry. Japan lifted all COVID-19 restrictions in March as infections slowed significantly, but experts have noted signs of a resurgence in a number of prefectures during a travel and holiday season for people marking graduation and the start of the academic and business year.
The government is trying to expand businesses and get the pandemic-hit economy back on track. Japan is slowly easing border controls following heavy criticism for its longstanding restrictions on nonresident foreign students, scholars and business people, but Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said Japan is not considering not to restart inbound tourism any time soon.
Booster shots have been slow in Japan, and less than 50% of the population had received booster shots of mostly mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. A third vaccine, AstraZeneca, is barely used due to public concerns about rare blood clotting reports and is widely donated to vaccine-poor Asian countries bilaterally or through a United Nations-backed program. About 80% of Japan’s elderly population had received three injections.
Goto said Japan had agreed to buy 150 million doses of Novavax vaccines developed by the Maryland company, which will help stabilize vaccine supplies in a country that is entirely dependent on foreign imports as its vaccines are developed. own vaccines has lagged behind. Novavax’s distributor in Japan, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., is to locally manufacture 250 million doses per year.