South Korea to import J&J, Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for 16 million people

(Reuters) – South Korea has signed deals with Pfizer Inc and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen to import coronavirus vaccines to cover up to 16 million people, as it grapples with the third wave of infections, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a televised briefing on Thursday.

The government has been facing growing public pressure over their COVID-19 vaccine procurement plans as the country struggled to contain a third wave of the pandemic, reporting its second-highest daily tally of cases on Wednesday.

Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech, will be enough to cover for 10 million people and its shipment is expected in the third quarter of 2021

“We are mobilising the entire national capabilities to bring in the shipments within the second quarter,” said Chung. “The negotiation is underway.”

Chung said the doses from Janssen – J&J’s pharmaceuticals division – were added from the initial amount for 2 million people to 6 million and will be ready for inoculation from the second quarter.

The Pfizer and Janssen deals are part of a government plan to buy enough doses that will allow immunisation of 85% of South Korea’s population of 52 million.

Two other drugmakers of the four the country had secured the doses from are AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna Inc.

Doses for 10 million people would be procured through the global COVAX initiative, backed by the World Health Organization.

The health authorities had said they would not rush inoculation to allow more time to observe potential side effects.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 985 new coronavirus cases as of Wednesday midnight, bringing the nation’s tally to 53,533, with 756 deaths.

Authorities have shut down all ski resorts and winter tourist spots and banned gatherings of more than four in a bid to stop the spread during the Christmas and New Year holidays.