Japan Donates 800M COVID Vaccines As It Ramps Up Efforts With Own Citizens

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Wednesday that the country will donate an additional $800 million to COVAX, the United Nations-backed initiative to bring COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries.

This move comes as Japan tries to ramp up vaccination efforts in its own country ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, the Associated Press reported.

"Now is the time for us to act," Suga said at a fundraiser for COVAX that Japan co-sponsored with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The program is $2 billion away from reaching its goal of $8.3 billion to fund free vaccines in low- and middle-income countries.

The latest donation will bring Japan's total contribution to $1 billion, second behind the United States' $2.5 billion pledge.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Japan Vaccine Donation
A former sumo wrestler receives a coronavirus vaccine at Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena on May 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Japan announced it has donated &800 million to COVAX, a U.N.-backed initiative to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries around the world. Carl Court/Getty Images

Suga also announced plans to provide 30 million doses of a vaccine manufactured under license in Japan to other countries and regions in need. He did not specify the maker or recipients.

Officials have said Japan is considering providing the AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan as the island faces a resurgence of infections.

Japan has approved three foreign-developed vaccines and is currently using ones from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. It has no immediate plans to use the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is easier to store and transport than the other two vaccines, which require special freezers, officials said.

Suga also introduced a new vaccine strategy adopted Tuesday and vowed to develop Japan's own vaccines and provide them globally and to improve the clinical testing environment to prepare for future pandemics.

Under the long-term strategy, Japan will aim for the speedy development and rollout of new vaccines. In addition to a lack of locally developed vaccines, Japan's lengthy drug approval process was criticized as a major obstacle that delayed vaccinations during the pandemic.

The summit was also attended by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and philanthropist Bill Gates.

Globally, more than 3.5 million people are confirmed to have died from the coronavirus. The U.S. has seen the largest confirmed loss of life from COVID-19, at more than 594,000 people.

Japan COVAX Contributions
People receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Noevir Stadium Kobe in Kobe, western Japan, Monday, May 31, 2021. The stadium is being used as an inoculation venue for local residents over 65 years old. Japan, seriously behind in coronavirus vaccination efforts, is scrambling to boost daily shots as the start of the Olympics in July closes in. Japan's prime minister announced Wednesday an additional $800 million contribution to the U.N.-backed initiative to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries. Yu Nakajima/Kyodo News via AP