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INTERVIEW | Moderna Japan's Kazumasa Nagayama on COVID-19 Vaccines and New Initiatives

The Moderna Japan president emphasized the need to continue vaccinations as COVID-19 shows signs of worsening post-infection effects and no signs of decline.

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A doctor draws the Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) booster vaccine at a pharmacy in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, US, September 8, 2022. (@Reuters/Hannah Beier)

In an interview, Kazumasa Nagayama, President of Moderna Japan underscored the significance of facilitating COVID-19 vaccination opportunities. He spoke with The Sankei Shimbun on May 13. Nagayama emphasized, "It is crucial for us to provide opportunities for receiving COVID-19 vaccinations." He strongly reaffirmed the company's commitment to ensuring vaccine supply despite the change in national priority.

Based in Tokyo, Moderna Japan develops vaccines using Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. The government downgraded COVID-19 to a Level 5 common infectious disease in May 2023. From the autumn and winter of 2024, vaccinations, too, transition to normal treatment in terms of cost-sharing.

Moderna Japan President Kazumasa Nagayama (provided by the company)

 Vaccine 'Voluntary' Status

Since April 2024, COVID-19 vaccines have been accessible as voluntary self-funded vaccinations. However, routine vaccination campaigns targeting the elderly and other demographics are scheduled to start in the autumn and winter, with partial coverage of costs by individuals.

President Nagayama highlighted, "Moderna is currently the only supplier of vaccines for this spring and summer (2024)." He also underlined the importance of vaccinations as infections continue. Nagayama noted that "COVID-19 infections, including hospitalization rates, have shown no signs of decline, and the severity of post-infection effects such as cognitive decline has worsened." 

He also disclosed that Moderna is "preparing vaccines to counter mutant strains for the forthcoming autumn and winter vaccination drives."

Syringes with needles are seen in front of a displayed Moderna logo in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. (@Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

'Next Generation' Vaccines

Moreover, Moderna is in the process of developing a "next-generation vaccine" for COVID-19 This is intended for co-administration with the influenza vaccine, with the aim of bolstering effectiveness and minimizing side effects. 

Encouraging results from final-stage clinical trials conducted on a global scale have shown significant immune responses. Results have been particularly hopeful among individuals aged 65 and above. President Nagayama affirmed, "The vaccine will be readily available even within Japan's routine vaccination framework."

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(Read the report in Japanese.)

Author: Yohei Ushijima

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