TOKYO, July 12 (Reuters) - Japan will make additional donations of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan and other Asian neighbours this week, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Tuesday (Jul 13).
Japan will ship out 1 million doses each to Indonesia, Taiwan and Vietnam on Thursday as part of bilateral deals with those governments, Motegi told reporters.
An additional 11 million doses donated through the COVAX sharing scheme will be sent this month to Bangladesh, Cambodia, Iran, Laos, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, as well as various Pacific Island states, he said.
This is the third batch of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines Japan has donated to Taiwan, taking the country's total donations to Taiwan so far to almost 3.4 million doses.
The first batch was sent in June, followed by a second donation earlier this month.
Taiwan's Foreign Ministry expressed its thanks, especially at a time when Japan is facing its own serious coronavirus situation.
"The friendship between Taiwan and Japan is unwavering. The Foreign Ministry once again thanks our partners in freedom and democracy for their warm assistance and strong support," it added.
In a statement, Vietnam said it would receive a million doses from Japan on Friday in the southern business hub of Ho Chi Minh City, where it is fighting its largest outbreak yet after months of successful containment.
"It is encouraging that a number of richer countries have made generous pledges and donations of vaccines to countries in Asia in recent weeks," said Alexander Matheou of aid group the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
"We need to speed up the delivery of these lifesaving doses so that we can get them into people's arms, giving us a genuine shot at containing this pandemic once and for all."
Taiwan has complained that Chinese interference blocked a deal earlier this year for it to get vaccines from Germany's BioNTech, charges Beijing has denied. Since then, vaccine donations have rolled in to Taiwan.
Last month the United States donated 2.5 million Moderna doses, while the Baltic state of Lithuania has pledged 20,000 shots of AstraZeneca's vaccine.
Taiwan is rapidly expanding its vaccination programme, though so far only around one-tenth of its 23.5 million people have received at least one of the two shot regimen.
Taiwan's own relatively small domestic COVID-19 outbreak has now generally been brought under control, though there remain sporadic community infections.
Japan has pledged US$1 billion and 30 million doses to COVAX. Motegi said on Tuesday the AstraZeneca doses made in Japan were approved by the World Health Organization on Jul 9 for use in COVAX.