January 04, 2021 13:40
Shipments of coronavirus vaccines from U.S. biotech giant Moderna will not begin until May, and others will start coming even later.
In a press release last Thursday, Moderna confirmed that it agreed with the Korean government to provide 40 million doses of its vaccine to "support the government's aim of providing vaccines to the public as soon as possible."
"Under the terms of the proposed agreement, deliveries would begin in May 2021," it added.
The government earlier tried to fudge the issue by saying only the vaccines would come "in the second quarter" of the year but didn't say whether that meant April 1 or June 30.
Forty million doses are enough for 20 million people at two doses a head. President Moon Jae-in negotiated to double the amount from the original contract by video call with Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel and brought the delivery date forward from the third quarter to the second.
The Moderna vaccine has not been approved for use in Korea yet, but the company pledged to work with Korean "regulators to pursue the necessary approvals prior to distribution."
The Korean government "has moved very swiftly to get this done in the face of the pandemic," Bancel said in the press release. "We believe this supply agreement is an important step towards building a long-lasting future collaboration" with Korea.
The government has also signed agreements for enough vaccines from AstraZeneca for 10 million people and Janssen doses for 6 million people in the first and second quarter.
Once approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, the AstraZeneca vaccines could be the first to be administered from February, starting with medical professionals and elderly people.
The first shipment of Pfizer vaccines for another 10 million people will not arrive until the third quarter.
The government is still holding negotiations with COVAX Facility, a global mechanism for equitable distribution of vaccines, with an eye to getting more vaccines in the first quarter.
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