COVID vaccine doses to be discarded

Japan's health ministry has announced plans to discard unused coronavirus vaccine doses now that the government has ended its free vaccination program.

The ministry had been procuring doses by signing contracts directly with vaccine makers till fiscal 2023, which ended on March 31. The doses were distributed to municipalities and shots provided for free to all who wanted them.

From Monday, medical institutions will purchase vaccines sold on the market. People aged 65 and older or at high risk of developing serious symptoms will have part of the cost subsidized. Others will have to pay the full cost.

The ministry also disclosed its policy on inventory and disposal of doses it secured until last fiscal year.

As for vaccines procured since last September targeting the XBB subvariant of the coronavirus Omicron variant, the ministry is to dispose of 870-thousand out of 39 million doses received from Pfizer.

Likewise, some 10-thousand of the 6 million doses purchased from Moderna, and 740-thousand of the 1.4 million from Daiichi Sankyo will be disposed of on their expiration dates.

The ministry says the disposal should not be considered a waste, as enough vaccines have been procured for all who wanted them.