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UPDATE 1-BioNTech 'confident' it will meet Japan's COVID-19 vaccine demand

(Adds details throughout, CEO comment in paragraph 4-5)

Feb 2 (Reuters) - Japan will receive all the COVID-19 vaccines it has purchased for this year from Pfizer and BioNTech, BioNTech’s head said on Tuesday, amid worries that delivery schedules may be disrupted by global wrangling over supplies.

Japan’s vaccine chief said last week that export controls imposed by the European Union, where some vaccines are made, could delay the Asian nation’s inoculation effort.

Japan is trailing most major economies in starting inoculations due to its reliance on overseas makers and a demand that vaccines go through domestic trials. It plans to start its campaign in mid-February with the Pfizer/BioNTech shot.

Pfizer and BioNTech have increased manufacturing capacity to more than 2 billion doses a year from 1.3 billion to meet demand, BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin said.

“Therefore we are confident that we will deliver the doses that we have promised to Japan,” he told an online briefing.

Japan has a deal to buy 144 million shots of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine this year.

Sahin did not give more details about the delivery schedule.

State broadcaster NHK reported on Tuesday that Japanese approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could come on Feb. 12. The first doses may arrive on Feb. 14 from a Pfizer factory in Belgium, the Fuji News Network reported.

It also has deals to buy shots from AstraZeneca, Moderna and Novavax.

Taro Kono, Japan’s vaccine rollout chief, said on Friday that growing nationalism over supplies could lead to retaliation and disruptions to global supplies.

BioNTech’s chief strategist, Ryan Richardson, said the company was working to supply vaccines to Japan as soon as it could, pending government approval. He said supplies would come from production facilities in Europe and the United States.

Reporting by Rocky Swift; writing by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Jason Neely and Edmund Blair

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