Third person dies in Japan after taking contaminated Moderna coronavirus vaccine

By Gavin Blair in Tokyo
a phial of moderna covid vaccine
A third man has died in Japan after taking Modern’s coronavirus vaccine, though no causal link has been found, said authorities. Photograph: Eugene Hoshiko/AP

A third man has died in Japan after receiving an injection from one of the batches of Moderna vaccines since recalled after contaminants were found in some of them, though authorities say no causal link has yet been found.

The 49-year-old man had his second shot on 11 August and died the following day. His only known health issue was an allergy to buckwheat, the health ministry said on Monday. As with the previous two deaths, the ministry said it had yet to establish if the latest fatality was linked to the vaccine.

The shot came from one of the three batches that were part of a recall of 1.63m doses of the Moderna vaccine on 26 August, but not from one of the batches found to have fragments of stainless steel in them. The three batches were manufactured in Spain under contract by Moderna.

The company said: “This is a tragic event, and the loss of life is something that we take very seriously. We offer our sincerest condolences to their loved ones.”

Last week Moderna issued a joint statement with local distributor Takeda Pharmaceutical, saying: “The rare presence of stainless steel particles in the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine does not pose an undue risk to patient safety and it does not adversely affect the benefit/risk profile of the product.”

Early last month, two men in their 30s with no underlying health conditions died within days of getting their second dose of the Moderna vaccine.

Contaminants believed to be pieces of rubber fragments from vial stoppers that entered the vaccine liquid due to incorrectly inserted needles were found in Okinawa, Gunma and Kanagawa in late August and early September. No problems were reported among those injected with the contaminated vaccines, which came from different batches to the previously recalled ones.

More than 500,000 people have been injected with vaccines from the three faulty batches, according to the minister in charge of the vaccine programme, Taro Kono.

Most of the vaccines used in Japan are made by Pfizer, though approximately 18 million doses of Moderna had been administered as of 26 August. Nearly 136m coronavirus doses in total have been given in Japan, where 48% of the population is full vaccinated and more than 59% have received at least one shot.

New infections in Tokyo dropped below 1,000 on Monday for the first time since mid-July.

This article was updated on 8 September to make clear that the third death did not occur from contaminated vaccines.


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