Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine gains favor in South Korea from first of three expert panels

FILE PHOTO: Bottles with the label, “COVID-19 / coronavirus vaccine / injection only” and a medical syringe can be seen in front of the prominent Pfizer logo in this illustration taken on October 31, 2020. REUTERS / Dado Ruvić

SEOUL (Reuters) – The first of three expert panels in South Korea reviewing the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech gave a recommendation to the government on Tuesday to approve the vaccine.

The National Pharmaceutical Committee plans to make its recommendation on Friday, the same day South Korea will begin its immunization drive. But the government will wait for a third panel, which did not say when it will reach its conclusion, before deciding whether to approve the approval.

High-risk individuals, given priority at the start of the vaccination campaign, will be vaccinated with a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

A day later, however, South Korea will use 117,000 doses of Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine delivered through COVAX, an international coronavirus vaccine sharing program, bypassing the need for final government approval.

About 55,000 health workers at COVID-19 treatment facilities will receive the first doses of Pfizer / BioNTech on Saturday.

The first panel to report on Pfizer / BioNTech advised that it should be given to people over the age of 16, taking into account global test results and approval in several other countries.

Pfizer has promised to double the delivery of the vaccine to the United States by mid-March, and has also raised global production expectations for 2021 to at least 2 billion doses.

South Korea reported 357 new cases of coronavirus on Monday. The total number of infections is now 87,681, and the number of deaths is 1,573.

Reporting Sangmi Cha; Edited by Simon Cameron-Moore