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Coronavirus

AstraZeneca starts coronavirus vaccine trials in Japan

Drugmaker says it will deliver 30m doses to the country by next March

AstraZeneca has signed an agreement with the Japanese government to supply the country with 120 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- AstraZeneca has begun clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine candidate in Japan, its local unit announced Friday.

The U.K.-headquartered company is the third to start such trials in the country, after AnGes, a drugmaker that was founded at Osaka University, and U.S.-based Johnson & Johnson. If successful, it could become one of the top suppliers for coronavirus vaccines in Japan.

Under AstraZeneca's Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials, the vaccine candidate will be tested on roughly 250 subjects aged 18 and above across several facilities.

The multinational said it is on track to ship 30 million of the 120 million doses it has promised to the Japanese government by March 2021. But is still unclear whether each individual will require one or two doses.

The Japanese government aims to secure enough doses by the first half of 2021 to immunize all of its residents. It is considering providing the vaccine for free, with priority given to medical workers and to the elderly, who tend to suffer more severe symptoms from COVID-19.

Japan also signed an agreement to receive 120 million dozes from Pfizer by June 2021, and is in talks with U.S. compatriot Moderna for another 40 million or more doses.

AnGes plans to supply 1 million doses to Japan, while Johnson & Johnson has not announced a specific figure.

Japan's Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency issued a guideline on vaccine development on Wednesday, stressing that the importance of conducting clinical trials in the country even if vaccines are already in the middle of large-scale tests overseas.

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