Japan to get first batches of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from U.S

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FILE PHOTO: Vials labelled "AstraZeneca COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's first doses of AstraZeneca Plc's COVID-19 vaccine are coming from plants in the United States, not Europe as initially expected, the company told the Asahi Newspaper.

The company had intended to import the undiluted vaccine from Europe until export controls were tightened there at the end of January, AstraZeneca's head of vaccines in Japan, Tomoo Tanaka, said in an interview published on Thursday.

An AstraZeneca spokeswoman confirmed the details when contacted by Reuters.

Supplies of the vaccine will gradually shift to those made domestically by Japanese companies once regulatory approval is granted, expected in May, Tanaka said. He did not give details on the current inventory of doses.

Daiichi Sankyo Co said last month it had begun production of AstraZeneca's vaccine in Japan.

The Japanese government has arranged to buy 120 million doses, enough for 60 million people. About 90 million will be produced domestically by Daiichi Sankyo, JCR Pharmaceuticals Co and other local partners.

The European Union has sought to limit exports of vaccines made within the bloc to preserve local supplies.

While AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine is yet to be approved in the United States, the U.S. government is holding on to some of the doses being produced there so they can be given to Americans quickly upon approval.

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Himani Sarkar)