Japan’s health ministry said on Tuesday that foreign matter identified in Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccines in the southern prefecture of Okinawa was most likely produced by needles inserted into the vials.
On Sunday, several Moderna doses were temporarily halted in Okinawa due to the discovery of foreign materials in vials and syringes. Later needles may have been mistakenly placed into vials, tearing off portions of the rubber stopper, according to the health ministry.
“Whatever the reason (for the foreign matter) we have heard that there is no safety or other issues,” health minister Norihisa Tamura told reporters, adding that it was not uncommon for foreign material to enter a vial with other vaccines.
“We will continue to gather information and report back,” he added.
Japan is facing its biggest wave of COVID-19 infections so far during the pandemic, driven by the highly transmissable Delta variant.
The drive to increase immunizations has been slowed by delays in imported vaccinations and the discovery of impurities in certain Moderna dosages, which forced the suspension of three batches last week.
Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the immunisation campaign, stated on Tuesday that he wished to expedite vaccine shipments to municipalities that had been forced to cease reservations owing to shortages.
The government is considering when and how to administer booster doses that may be required to maintain protection against the virus, but is focusing on finishing the first two shots for the public for the time being, Kono told reporters.