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Seoul to procure enough COVID-19 vaccines for North, South Korea

Seoul to procure enough COVID-19 vaccines for North, South Korea
South Korea is securing enough COVID-19 vaccines cover the population and at least 20 million more recipients, according to a local press report  Wednesday. File Photo by Kim Hee-chui/EPA-EFE

Jan. 20 (UPI) -- South Korea is preparing to secure more COVID-19 vaccines via technology transfer from U.S. manufacturers Novavax Inc. and Moderna, allowing the country to produce local doses and enough potential vaccines for North and South Korea.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday during a visit to a SK Bioscience Co. plant in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, that Novavax vaccines will be produced in Korea and that enough vaccines to inoculate 10 million people will be secured through this supply agreement, Hankook Ilbo an and Yonhap reported.

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The localized production of Novavax vaccines will be made possible via a tech transfer. Other companies, including Massachusetts-based Moderna, are to enter into a similar agreement with South Korea, according to the report.

A stable supply of COVID-19 vaccines has been a goal of the South Korean government. Seoul fell under public criticism last year for not procuring more vaccines on a faster schedule. In December, the country was hit by a winter wave of the novel coronavirus, with average daily cases hovering at 1,000.

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South Korea has secured enough vaccines for 76 million people, based on agreements signed with different companies and organizations, according to Hankook Ilbo.

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Including tech transfer deals, Seoul has procured doses for 20 million people from Novavax, 20 million people from Moderna, 10 million each from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and the World Health Organization's COVAX facility, and doses for 6 million people from Janssen, a Johnson & Johnson company.

The number indicates South Korea plans to produce a surplus of COVID-19 vaccines; the population of the country is about 52 million.

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In December, Unification Minister Lee In-young said Seoul would "share" a COVID-19 vaccine with impoverished North Korea, a country with a population of about 25 million. Pyongyang has not responded to the South's offers of joint cooperation.

South Korea's winter wave could be slowly subsiding, but the country remains on guard for new outbreaks.

Yonhap reported Wednesday that Seoul confirmed 368 new daily cases, down significantly from December. Most of the cases were reported in the Seoul metropolitan area, according to the report.

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