South Korea to spend $198m to procure Covid-19 vaccines for 60% of population

South Korea will purchase 20 million doses from the COVAX scheme, and 40 million doses from private drug makers.
South Korea will purchase 20 million doses from the COVAX scheme, and 40 million doses from private drug makers.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL • South Korea has said it plans to spend 172 billion won (S$198 million) to procure coronavirus vaccines, initially aiming to secure a supply for 30 million people, or 60 per cent of its population, as it battles persistent outbreaks of new cases.

The population target is higher than a World Health Organisation (WHO) goal for the early purchase of supplies for 20 per cent of the world's most vulnerable people, and at least 40 per cent agreed by European Union nations, Britain and EU partners for their populations.

While the South Korean authorities would like to inoculate the entire population of 52 million, uncertainty around any vaccine's safety, efficacy and development was limiting investment, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a Cabinet meeting yesterday.

He said the government would negotiate with relevant international organisations and vaccine-makers to secure the supply and would buy more as developments unfolded.

In August, South Korea said it planned to join the Covax facility, a global coronavirus vaccine allocation plan co-led by the WHO, which aims to help buy and fairly distribute the shots.

South Korea will buy 20 million doses of vaccine from the Covax scheme, enough for 10 million people, and 40 million doses from private drug-makers, the health authorities said in a statement.

The government has prepared 172 billion won to pay for vaccines, including US$70 million (S$95 million) for the 20 million doses from the Covax facility.

South Korea-based SK Bioscience in July agreed to manufacture AstraZeneca's experimental vaccine, and signed a deal with Novavax last month to produce a component of the US drug developer's experimental coronavirus vaccine.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2020, with the headline 'S. Korea to spend $198m to procure vaccines for 60% of population'. Subscribe