Govt considers providing AstraZeneca vaccine to Vietnam, Malaysia

Taiwan Centers for Disease Control / AP
A worker unloads vaccines from a plane from Japan at an airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan, on Friday.

The Japanese government has started coordination to provide some of its stocks of novel coronavirus vaccines produced by British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca PLC to Vietnam and Malaysia, where infections are rapidly spreading, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The supplies will be given free of charge, like the vaccines that Japan has already provided to Taiwan.

The government has yet come up with specific plans for any domestic use of AstraZeneca vaccine.

The infection started to rapidly spread in Vietnam in early May. The World Health Organization counted a one-day record of 470 people newly infected there on May 26.

In Malaysia, a record 9,020 people were confirmed as newly infected on May 30. The two Southeast Asian nations are facing serious shortage of COVID-19 vaccines.

Since health authorities of both nations have approved use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Japanese government considers that there is no problem to provide that vaccine while Japan has no immediate plans to use domestically.

The vaccine supplies will be provided directly, not via an international organization, and the amount will be decided soon.

The government is also considering providing Pacific island nations with COVID-19 vaccine. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will likely announce the plan at summit talks of leaders of Pacific island nations and other countries to be held online later this month. It is likely to be effectuated through an international organization.

Japan expressed its plan to provide 30 million doses of coronavirus vaccines overseas during online summit talks on vaccines on Wednesday, with the AstraZeneca vaccine in mind. Japan provided 1.24 million doses to Taiwan free of charge on Friday.

China has been actively engaged in “vaccine diplomacy” by providing domestically produced COVID-19 vaccine to more than 80 countries. Competing with China appears to be among the factors behind Japan’s moves.