TOKYO - AstraZeneca Plc plans to produce over 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in Japan, or about 75 percent of what the country is set to receive from the British pharmaceutical firm, the top government spokesman said Thursday.
JCR Pharmaceuticals Co. in Hyogo Prefecture, western Japan, is expected to be in charge of producing AstraZeneca's vaccine doses, according to sources familiar with the matter. AstraZeneca is set to provide 120 million shots, or enough for about 60 million people, to Japan.
"It's very important to have vaccine production systems in place in our country," Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a press conference.
AstraZeneca on Wednesday notified Japan's health ministry of its plans for domestic production, Kato said.
The government provides subsidies to companies preparing to produce vaccines domestically.
Of the 120 million doses to be provided by AstraZeneca, the remaining 30 million are expected to be imported to Japan by March. A clinical study of the AstraZeneca vaccine developed with the University of Oxford began in Japan last August.
Tokyo plans to start coronavirus vaccinations by late February with priority given first to medical staff. The government is set to receive a combined 310 million doses from AstraZeneca as well as US pharmaceutical firms Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.
The total will be enough for 157 million people in a country with a population of about 126 million.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines need to be stored and transported at subzero temperatures while AstraZeneca's is easier to handle. Still, the British drugmaker has faced production problems overseas, falling behind on its expected supply to the European Union.