January 21, 2021 09:41
President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday visited a factory that is tipped to produce coronavirus vaccines under license from Novavax of the U.S.
The SK Bioscience plant in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province could manufacture enough vaccines for another 20 million people on top of the ones Korea has already secured from overseas.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said SK Bioscience is in the process of winning a license from Novavax and could supply enough doses for 20 million Koreans.
Novavax' vaccine has a shelf life of one to three years, compared to just six months for others, and can be stored in fairly warm temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.
But recently some elderly U.S. patients have dropped out of its trials because other, proven vaccines are already available, which could delay the process of approval.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government plans to start vaccinations at the end of February. Speaking on radio, Chung said the first batch of doses contracted with the COVAX Facility "is scheduled to arrive in early February and will be enough to inoculate 50,000 people" or some 100,000 doses. He added the government "is still negotiating the volume, which is not fixed yet."
The government has been pushing to bring in Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines through the equitable vaccine-distribution mechanism under the WHO. The Pfizer vaccines are expected to arrive first.
When asked if vaccinations could therefore start next month, Chung said, "We are making thorough preparations to make that possible." He said the first recipients are "most likely" to be medical workers.
Korea has ordered enough vaccines for 56 million people -- 10 million from AstraZeneca, 10 million through COVAX, 10 million from Pfizer, 20 million from Moderna and 6 million from Janssen.
Meanwhile, the daily tally of new coronavirus cases stood at 401 as of Thursday morning, after staying slightly below 400 earlier this week.
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