Novavax Inc.'s COVID-19 vaccine for the European Union. (Photo courtesy of Novavax Inc.)(Kyodo)

A panel of experts at Japan's health ministry approved Monday the use of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by the U.S. biotechnology firm Novavax Inc.

The ministry plans to give the green light at an early date for the use of what will be the fourth COVID-19 vaccine available in Japan. It will be produced and distributed by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.

The government has agreed to purchase 150 million doses of the vaccine from the Japanese pharmaceutical company, which filed with the ministry for its approval in December.

Only COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc. are currently available in Japan.

Novavax's vaccine will be the first protein-based one. It can be administered to people aged 18 or older in two shots spaced three weeks apart.

The vaccine also may be used for mixing and matching booster shots.