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South Korea orders 46 million more Novavax and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines

Published on 16/02/21 at 11:43am

South Korea has arranged deals with Novavax and Pfizer-BioNTech to buy enough COVID-19 vaccines for 23 million more people.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun confirmed earlier today that the country had ordered 6 million more doses from Pfizer, taking the total purchased to 26 million, as well as 40 million doses from Novavax. Each vaccine requires two separate shots per person to be fully effective.

The East Asian country had already secured enough vaccine doses for its entire population of 52 million, with the latest round of purchases meaning they have enough shots to protect 79 million people.

The decision has come following continuing concerns over the efficacy of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine in over-65s, with several other countries deciding not to vaccinate their older citizens with the shot. 

Korea Disease Control and Agency Chief Jung Eun-kyeong confirmed yesterday that over-65s would not be vaccinated until March as a result, with most of Korea’s early vaccine orders having come from AstraZeneca. The shot will initially be used on healthcare workers.

This comes despite continued assurances from WHO that the vaccine is safe and effective in all adults.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meanwhile was the subject of an Israeli study of 1.2 million people, with the results published earlier this week showing a 94% efficacy in preventing a symptomatic infection of COVID-19.

South Korea intends to begin its vaccination programme on February 26.

Chung Sye-kyun said in a televised meeting: “The government has been working to bring in sufficient early supplies, but there is growing uncertainty over our plan for the first half due to production issues with global drugmakers and international competition to adopt more vaccines.”

In January, South Korea said they hoped to have vaccinated 70% of the population by September. The country has so far reported 84,325 cases of coronavirus and 1,534 related deaths.

Jack Goddard

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