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Japan’s health minister claimed that a needle breaking pieces of rubber on vials of Covid vaccine likely caused the foreign substance found in contaminated Moderna injections, forcing Tokyo to suspend 2.6 million jabs.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Norihisa Tamura offered a possible explanation for the contaminating material found in Moderna vaccines in Okinawa Prefecture. He said it was most likely the result of needles inserted incorrectly into the vials, which resulted in bits of rubber getting into the vaccine.

The Minister of Health, however, insisted that “Whatever the reason [for the foreign matter], we heard that there was no security issue or whatever. He pledged that authorities “will continue to gather information and report” on any updates.

His remarks come after authorities in Okinawa said on Sunday they were temporarily halting use of Moderna’s Covid vaccine – Spikevax – after “Foreign substances have been spotted in some of them.” According to a statement from the Ministry of Health, dark matter was found in a vial and syringes, while a pink foreign body was found in another jab.

Two men in their 30s died just days after receiving their second dose of Spikevax from a batch of suspended injections, Japan’s health ministry confirmed on Saturday. Investigations into the exact cause of death are underway.

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2 people die in Japan after receiving Moderna Covid-19 injections from a batch that was withdrawn due to foreign material in some vials

A total of 2.6 million shots of Moderna’s Covid vaccine have been on hold for use across Japan due to contamination fears. The administration of a million doses was halted over the weekend in Okinawa and Gunma Prefecture, near Tokyo, after reports that similar dark matter was discovered in vials.

The incidences of damaged consignments coincide with Japan grappling with a wave of coronavirus cases that has plunged half of the country’s prefectures into a state of emergency.

Tokyo, initially slow to roll out Covid vaccines, has vaccinated nearly 54% of its population with a first dose, while just over 43% are fully vaccinated, according to statistics from NHK World.

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