Japan's health ministry granted fast-track approval Tuesday for U.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna Inc.'s coronavirus vaccine tailored for the BA.5 subvariant now prevalent in the country.

It is the second bivalent vaccine approved in Japan for the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, after the approval of Pfizer Inc.'s BA.5-tailored COVID-19 vaccine in October.

Vials of Moderna Inc.'s coronavirus vaccine tailored for the BA.5 subvariant. (Photo courtesy of Moderna Inc.'s Japan unit)(Kyodo)

Moderna's updated vaccine, which works against the Omicron subvariants and earlier strains, is for people aged 18 and above, and requires an inoculation interval of at least three months from the previous COVID-19 shot.

The health ministry plans to start delivering a total of around 3 million doses to municipalities in the final week of November.

In preparation for a projected eighth pandemic wave, the ministry plans to deliver a total of 102 million Omicron-tailored doses by the end of the year. Around 100 million people are eligible to receive them.

Updated vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer tailored for the BA.1 subvariant, which was dominant earlier this year, have been administered in Japan since September.

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