SEOUL (REUTERS) - Moderna and Novavax entered into a deal with the South Korean government to manufacture their Covid-19 vaccines, as the country has been under pressure to secure more and faster deliveries of United States-made vaccines.
Saturday's (May 22) agreements with the US drug makers came a day after US President Joe Biden said he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in had agreed on a comprehensive partnership on Covid-19 vaccines and that the US would provide vaccinations for 550,000 South Korean soldiers.
Mr Moon, under pressure over the Covid-19 pandemic, said a vaccine partnership would combine US expertise and South Korean production capacity.
Moderna, whose shot was granted approval in South Korea on Friday, said on Saturday its vaccine will be manufactured by Samsung Biologics and that it intends to supply these vaccines to markets outside the US starting in the third quarter.
South Korea has emerged as a global vaccine production base with its fourth Covid-19 vaccine contract manufacturing deal, Vice-Health Minister Kang Do-tae told a briefing on Sunday.
"The establishment of the South Korea-US vaccine partnership is to build the basis for mass production of vaccines domestically by combining the advanced technology of the US with production capabilities of South Korea," said Mr Kang.
South Korea has deals to locally produce coronavirus vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Novavax, and Russia's Sputnik V. The country has secured access to 40 million doses of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine, the authorities had said.
"We will continue to explore options for establishing potential local manufacturing opportunities in South Korea," Moderna chief executive Stephane Bancel said in a press release.
Novavax also on Saturday reaffirmed its partnership with South Korean firm SK Bioscience to expand its production of vaccines, including the US drug developer's protein-based Covid-19 vaccine candidate.
In February, Novavax had entered into a licence agreement with the South Korean manufacturer to produce 40 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine for the country.
South Korea, which has vaccinated fewer than 10 per cent of its 52 million people, aims to inoculate at least 70 per cent by September. It has ordered up to 192 million doses of those made by AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Novavax, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 585 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, bringing the total tally to 135,929 infections, with 1,931 deaths.