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Japan approves Novavax COVID-19 vaccine

TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s Health Ministry yesterday formally approved Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine, a fourth foreign-developed tool to combat the infections as the country sees signs of a resurgence led by a subvariant of fast-spreading Omicron.

The ministry approval comes the day after its experts panel endorsed the use of Novavax’s protein vaccine, which is designed with similar technology used to fight diseases such as the flu and hepatitis B, for the first two shots and a booster.

Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto told reporters Novavax product adds variety to the choices available and could appeal to those who are hesitant to use COVID-19 vaccines such as Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, which are designed with newer technologies.

Jabs using Novavax vaccine are expected to start as early as late May.

Goto said Japan has agreed to purchase 150 million doses of the Novavax shots developed by the Maryland company, which will help stabilise vaccine supply in a country that fully relies on foreign imports while development of its own vaccines have fallen behind.

Novavax’s distributor in Japan Takeda Pharmaceutical Co is to locally manufacture 250 million doses annually.

A vial of the Phase 3 Novavax coronavirus vaccine. PHOTO: AP