Last week, we looked at the news about Japan suspending the use of the Moderna vaccine after “contamination” was found in an unspecified number of vials. At the time, there weren’t many details offered as to what the specific contamination consisted of but no injuries to patients had been reported. As of last night, both of those facts had changed. The type of contamination had been identified as “metal flakes” in the liquid. Also, two patients reportedly died shortly after receiving the injections. The investigation is ongoing, but more extensive inspections of the Moderna vaccines will now be required. (The Times UK)
Two men with no pre-existing illnesses died days after receiving Moderna vaccines from a batch in Japan contaminated with tiny metal flakes.
Thirty-nine vaccine vials were found to contain the fragments last week at eight centres in five prefectures, including Tokyo. They were part of three batches made for Moderna in Spain. At least 180,000 people are understood to have been injected from the batches.
More than 1.6 million doses have been withdrawn. The men, aged 30 and 38, developed fevers shortly after receiving their second doses early this month and died within days.
Reuters confirmed the story and quoted one Japanese health official who said there may only be a temporal relationship between the deaths and the vaccinations, suggesting they were unrelated. Just from a layman’s perspective, that seems to make sense. Both of the men were said to have come down with fevers shortly after being vaccinated and they died within two days. That doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that would be caused by the introduction of metal flakes into the bloodstream.
In order to make it into a syringe, those flakes must have been quite tiny. Nothing that small should have done anything to block the flow of blood or stop their hearts, nor should the flakes have immediately induced a fever. If this were some sort of case of heavy metal poisoning, such ailments typically required extended exposure over long periods of time before symptoms are seen. So that doesn’t sound like a good match.
More disturbing is the fact that nearly 200,000 people received doses from the tainted batches. That’s a lot of people to have to track and report on. But at the same time, if there were only two deaths out of 180,000 patients, that further suggests there was no direct link between the fatalities and the contamination.
But how did metal flakes wind up in the vials? As we discussed last time, industry experts list metallic particles as one of many possible contaminants. Such metals are used in the vaccine manufacturing process and they say that some contamination is almost unavoidable. As a result, however, the Moderna facility in Spain where these vials were produced will need to be put on hold for additional inspections. That’s going to slow the rollout of vaccines for the rest of the world even further.
Unfortunately, a lot of this background information will be lost on the public. The biggest damage from this contamination incident may be the latest blow the news delivers to public confidence in the safety of the vaccines. And that was already far lower than health officials would like to see.
Sources: HotAir: In Japan, two die after Moderna doses found to contain metal flakes