Tokyo and Taipei, May 28 (CNA) Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi on Friday confirmed an earlier media report that the country is considering providing excess COVID-19 vaccines to other countries and regions, including Taiwan.
According to a transcript published on Japan's Foreign Ministry website, Motegi said during a press conference that the Japanese government is considering the idea because it is important for everybody to have fair access to safe and effective vaccines.
Japan is thinking of making Taiwan one of the beneficiaries because Taiwan could continue to face a vaccine shortage before its locally developed vaccine is ready in July, he said.
Earlier in the day, Japan's Sankei news reported that Tokyo is thinking of giving Taiwan some of its AstraZeneca vaccines, which could be shipped as soon as June, citing sources from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
The report cited the sources as saying that the move would not affect Japan's own needs as it already has enough vaccines of other brands for its people.
According to the report, Japan has signed contracts with Pfizer and Moderna to procure around 240 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, enough to vaccinate all Japanese citizens above 16 years old.
Aside from that, Japan has bought 120 million doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca, which the government decided to shelve temporarily due to reported risks of blood clots, it said.
Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Japan, said in a Facebook post on Friday that the matter should be handled in a low-key manner to prevent political interference.
"Details such as how many doses of vaccine will be provided, the time of delivery and how they will be provided are very complicated. It is a race against time," he said, urging people in Taiwan not to get their hopes up too much.
In Taipei, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung welcomed Japan's apparent goodwill and hoped the process could begin as soon as possible.
The need for vaccines has become an urgent matter in Taiwan amid cluster infections that have broken out in Taiwan over the past two weeks, bringing daily domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases to the hundreds from almost no local cases in earlier months.
Many experts in Taiwan are calling for mass vaccination to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
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