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UPDATE 2-AstraZeneca, Nipro sign COVID-19 vaccine deal for supply in Japan

(Adds AstraZeneca comments in 3rd, last paragraphs.)

May 26 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca Plc and Nipro Corp signed an agreement to supply the British-Swedish company’s COVID-19 vaccine in Japan, Nipro said on Wednesday.

Tokyo-listed Nipro, a major maker of syringes and medical devices, said the contract was for filling the shot into vials and packaging it, due to start next month. Japan’s government has agreed to acquire 120 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, enough for 60 million people.

The shot was officially approved on Friday along with the one developed by Moderna Inc. An AstraZeneca spokeswoman said the Nipro deal adds a third company to existing deals with Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo Co and KM Biologics Co to prepare and bottle doses.

Japan’s AstraZeneca doses will initially derive from undiluted solution imported from the United States. The supply will gradually shift to Japanese producers, with about 90 million doses to be made by JCR Pharmaceuticals Co and other local partners.

Japan started its inoculation drive in mid-February, later than most major economies and using imported doses of the shot developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE. The Moderna vaccine went into use this week with the opening of mass vaccination centres.

But there are no immediate plans to use AstraZeneca’s shot in Japan, amid lingering concerns raised internationally over blood clots. AstraZeneca’s spokeswoman said it was up to Japan’s government how the doses would be used. (Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru and Rocky Swift in Tokyo; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Louise Heavens)

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