South Korea to secure coronavirus vaccines for 60% of population: PM Chung

FILE PHOTO: People rest as they keep social distancing amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic at a Han River park in Seoul

By Sangmi Cha

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea will secure early supply of the novel coronavirus vaccines for 30 million people, or 60% of its population, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

While authorities would like to inoculate the country’s entire population of 52 million, uncertainty around the vaccine’s safety, efficacy and development was limiting South Korea’s investment, Chung said.

Chung said the government will negotiate with the relevant international organisations and vaccine makers to secure the early supply of the COVID-19 vaccines and would buy more as the development proceeds.

In August, South Korea said it planned to join the COVAX facility, a global COVID-19 vaccine allocation plan co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) that aims to help buy and fairly distribute the shots.

South Korea will purchase 20 million doses of vaccines from the COVAX scheme, available for 10 million people, and 40 million doses from private drug makers, the health authorities said in a statement.

South Korea’s SK Bioscience in July agreed to manufacture AstraZeneca’s <AZN.L> experimental vaccine, that has shown promise against the coronavirus, to help the British company build global supplies.

Novavax Inc <NVAX.O> last month separately said SK Bioscience, a unit of SK Chemicals <285130.KS>, would manufacture a component of the U.S. drug developer’s experimental coronavirus vaccine in a bid to boost its supply.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 106 new coronavirus cases as of Monday midnight, which brought the total number of infections to 22,391, and the total COVID-19 death tally to 367.

(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)