Japan is expecting to launch clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccine in July, said the country’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a budget committee session.

Multiple institutions in the country are working on a potential vaccine, including the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, University of Tokyo and Osaka University.

Abe added that Japan would join several other countries trying to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. The Prime Minister called for more vaccination programmes as early as possible along with the pooling of global resources and know-how, reported Xinhua.

In addition, Abe said that the government intends to approve Fujifilm’s anti-flu drug Avigan by the end of this month for the treatment of patients suffering from Covid-19 infection.

Japan is said to be planning to increase its Avigan stockpile by three times to treat two million people. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi noted that the drug will be made available at zero cost to more than 40 countries for clinical trials.

Avigan (favipiravir) selectively blocks RNA polymerase involved in influenza viral replication. The mechanism is expected to have an antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

The drug is manufactured and distributed upon request by the government of Japan. It was never distributed in the market and is not available at hospitals and pharmacies in Japan or internationally.

Last month, Fujifilm Toyama Chemical commenced a Phase III clinical trial of Avigan  for the treatment of Covid-19 patients in Japan. The study will assess the drug’s safety and efficacy.

Fujifilm also launched a Phase II trial of Avigan to treat Covid-19 patients in the US. This study is designed for around 50 coronavirus patients will be enrolled at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.