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Japan in deals with AstraZeneca, Novavax for COVID-19 vaccines

FILE PHOTO: The company logo for pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is displayed on a screen on the floor at the NYSE in New York

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan plans to buy AstraZeneca Plc’s <AZN.L> experimental COVID-19 vaccine and fund a local company to manufacture Novavax’s <NVAX.O> vaccine candidate, ramping up its stockpile plan as it battles surging infections.

Japan will order 120 million doses of the experimental vaccine developed by the British pharmaceutical company, beginning with 30 million doses by March next year. It did not disclose purchase prices.

Separately, Takeda Pharmaceutical <4502.T> said on Friday it would manufacture and sell up to 250 million doses of Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate every year in Japan, with funding support from the government.

The two deals follow an announcement last week by the government to buy 120 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by Pfizer Inc <PFE.N> and BioNTech SE <BNTX.O>.

“We hope each development will succeed, but it is generally said that vaccine development is quite difficult,” Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters.

“With this in mind, we are talking to other vaccine makers as well.”

Japan is the latest country to sign up for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, known as AZD1222, which is under development in partnership with the University of Oxford. The pharmaceutical company has been in talks with Russia, Brazil and others about supply deals for its potential vaccine.

AstraZeneca said JCR Pharma <4552.T> will help make a portion of its potential COVID-19 vaccine and it will import shots as part of its deal to supply Japan.

It did not give a breakdown for the volume of domestic production and imports or say where the vaccines from overseas would come from.

Daiichi Sankyo Biotech and KM Biologics will undertake production, such as filling vials and packaging, while Daiichi Sankyo <4568.T> and Meiji Seika Pharma [MEIJHA.UL] will support shipping.

As Japan procures vaccines from abroad, it is also developing its own. AnGes Inc <4563.T> and Osaka University are working on a DNA vaccine, while Shionogi & Co <4507.T> is working on a recombinant protein type.

Japan on Friday reported 1,563 new cases, bringing the total number of infections to almost 47,000. Just over 1,000 people have died from the virus so far in the country.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Naomi Tajitsu; editing by Jason Neely, Kim Coghill and Louise Heavens)

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