Japan to ship millions more COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan, Asian neighbours this week

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A medical worker administers a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to a woman during a vaccination session for elderly people over 75 years old, at a stadium in New Taipei City, Taiwan June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo

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TOKYO, July 6 (Reuters) - Japan said on Tuesday it would ship millions more doses of AstraZeneca Plc's (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine to Asian neighbours this week as a continuation of bilateral donations.

Japan will send 1.13 million more doses to Taiwan on Thursday, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters at a regular press conference, after previously delivering 1.24 million doses last month. read more

A further 1 million doses each will be sent to Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam this week, following earlier donations to Indonesia and Malaysia, Motegi said.

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"True friends always lend a hand when they need each other the most," Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang wrote on his Facebook page.

In further good news for Taiwan's vaccine programme, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters in Taipei that 620,000 additional AstraZeneca doses would arrive on Wednesday, part of the government's direct order from the company.

Around 10% of Taiwan's 23.5 million people have received at least one of the two-shot vaccines. President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday officials hope to get that to up to 25% by the end of this month.

Japan has arranged to buy 120 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, with most of that supply produced by domestic companies. Regulators approved the shot in May, but amid lingering concerns about blood clots, health authorities have relied on the mRNA-type vaccines made by Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) in Japan's inoculation push.

Japan has pledged $1 billion and 30 million doses to the global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX, but so far its donations have been outside of that programme. read more

AstraZeneca doses produced in Japan have not yet been approved by the World Health Organisation for use in COVAX, Motegi said, so the country has turned to bilateral deals to respond to "urgent requests for vaccine supplies."

Japan's first shipments through the COVAX facility are expected in the middle of this month, with some 11 million doses bound for nations in south Asia and the Pacific islands, Motegi said.

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Reporting by Rocky Swift; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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