Photo/Illutration COVID-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca Plc (Provided by AstraZeneca Plc)

British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca Plc plans to produce up to 90 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Japan and have them ready for distribution as early as this spring, according to sources.

The drug company turned to local production to ensure a stable supply in Japan as countries around the globe are racing to secure enough doses for their citizens from limited supplies, the sources said.

AstraZeneca signed a contract with the Japanese government to supply 120 million doses. The company plans to export 30 million doses to Japan by March, while the remaining 90 million doses will be produced in the country, according to the sources.

JCR Pharmaceuticals Co., based in Hyogo Prefecture, will produce the content of the vaccine, while Tokyo-based Daiichi Sankyo Co. and KM Biologics Co., based in Kumamoto Prefecture, will be in charge of filling vials and other production procedures.

The vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, was approved for use in Britain in December, and inoculations started this month. In clinical trials, the vaccine was an average 70 percent effective in preventing the development of COVID-19, the company said.

At the end of August last year, the pharmaceutical company started a clinical trial for the vaccine in Japan involving 256 participants.

The company plans to soon apply to the health ministry for approval to manufacture and market the vaccine in Japan.

The Japanese government also signed deals with U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. and U.S. biotech firm Moderna Inc. to receive doses of their vaccines.

The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at about minus 70 degrees, while the Moderna vaccine requires refrigeration at around minus 20 degrees.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is deemed more convenient for mass inoculations because its required storage temperature is 2 to 8 degrees, almost the same as a temperature inside regular refrigerators.