Japan plans to donate 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to other countries, doubling its goal from the previous pledge of 30 million doses, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Thursday.
Of the first 30 million vaccines the Japanese government has given out, the country has already provided around 23 million doses mostly in Asia, including Indonesia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Japan's pledge adds to a previous agreement to donate 30 million doses, and $1 billion to the global COVAX facility, overseen by the World Health Organization and the GAVI Alliance.
"I'm happy to announce that Japan will provide up to around 60 million doses of vaccine in total," Suga said in a pre-recorded video message at the Global COVID-19 Summit that was hosted by the U.S.
To date, Japan has donated more than 23 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to countries in the Pacific islands and South Asia, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said.
Japan at first lagged behind other industrialized countries in its vaccine distribution, but now more than half of its population are fully immunized, based on latest government data, which is roughly on a par with the U.S.
Japan has relied primarily on imported mRNA-type vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna for its local vaccination campaign, choosing to donate most of its supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Tokyo's new daily COVID-19 infections hit the lowest figure in three months as Japan's capital city seems to have got the highly contagious Delta variant spread under control.
Tokyo registered 253 new cases, falling from 302 a day earlier, while the city's seven-day average dropped to 662, falling around 46% from a week ago. Tokyo is still under a state of emergency until the end of the month.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden urged other nations to help expand production of COVID-19 vaccines in order to contain the pandemic.
Biden hosted a livestreamed vaccine summit Wednesday, coinciding with the UN leaders' meetings as part of measures to marshal more assistance to countries where vaccinations and supplies remain scarce.
Health authorities around the world say 5 billion to 6 billion coronavirus doses are needed by less developed countries.