South Korea signs contracts to buy Covid-19 with Pfizer, Janssen

Seoul, Dec. 24 (IANS) South Korea has signed agreements with Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen to purchase the Covid-19 vaccine with a view to starting vaccination in the second quarter of 2021, health authorities said Thursday.

According to the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KDCA), the government will buy vaccines for 10 million people from Pfizer and six million from Janssen, more than the original plan for four million people, the Yonhap news agency reported.

He formally entered into a purchase agreement with AstraZenec in late November and paid $ 77.6 million in October for the World Health Organization’s global vaccine project, known as COVAX.

The government plans to sign contracts with Moderna and COVAX next month to provide vaccines for 10 million people each, the KDCA said.

The AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two injections for immunization, while the Janssen vaccine requires one injection.

The government has set a goal of providing vaccines to 44 million people, enough to cover 88 percent of the country’s population, but the purchase business is expected to cover 46 million with increased supplies from Janssen.

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The vaccine against AstraZeneca will first be delivered around February and March, followed by Janssen in the second quarter of 2021 and Pfizer in the third quarter, according to health officials.

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government plans to start the vaccine program in the second quarter of next year, vowing to mobilize all resources to improve vaccine deliveries to that end.

“The government will pay close attention to ensure that the public can be vaccinated as soon as possible, without any concerns, while carefully studying the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines used (abroad),” the South Korean prime minister said during an inter-agency meeting in response to the Covid- 19.

Vaccine purchase agreements came amid increasing calls to speed up vaccine programs to deal with a sharp rise in cases, which could overwhelm the national medical system.

As soon as the vaccines are ready, the Ministry of Food and Drug Administration, the state drug safety agency, will urgently give approval for emergency use to first begin a vaccine program for the high-priority group, health officials said.

Health authorities said they are preparing ultra-cold freezers and other storage units for the safe distribution of vaccines, depending on their requirements set by drug manufacturers.

“We are preparing vaccinations to complete the vaccination of high-priority groups before next year’s flu season, which usually begins in November,” Yang Dong-gyo, a senior KDCA official, told a briefing.

The vaccines will first be introduced to groups vulnerable to the virus, such as the elderly, residents of health care homes and health workers in the first place, and then to the rest of the population in turn, including those who are clinically vulnerable, Yang said.

South Korea’s daily cases of the new coronavirus fell below 1,000 on Thursday, because until now, there were the strictest rules of social distancing before the Christmas and New Year holidays in order to suppress the winter wave of the virus.

The total number of cases reached 53,533, and the number of victims was 756, according to the KDCA.

–IANS

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