South Korea announced that it expects to start local development of Novavax Inc’s Covid-19 vaccine in June, while five domestic companies intend to begin late-stage clinical trials of their own vaccines in the second half of this year.
President Moon Jae-in held a special meeting on anti-virus activities and vaccine production as the country prepares for a potential fourth wave of infections.
SK Bioscience Co will be able to start producing Novavax Covid-19 vaccines as early as June, according to Health Minister Kwon Deok-Cheol, and may supply up to 20 million doses by the end of the third quarter. SK Bioscience and the US drugmaker signed a license agreement for the development of 40 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in South Korea.
“Given the growing supply instability around the world, we will be able to secure vaccines in a more reliable manner if domestic development began,” he said at a briefing. In late February, South Korea launched an inoculation programme with the aim of achieving herd immunity for its 52 million people by November.
SK Bioscience, EuBiologics Co, Cellid Co, Genexine Inc, and GeneOne Life Science, according to the health ministry, plan to begin Phase III trials of their own vaccines later this year. According to the ministry, the government aims to provide 68.7 billion won ($61.1 million) to help the companies produce vaccines.
As of Sunday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) announced 587 new Covid-19 cases, a small decrease due to fewer tests being conducted over the weekend after the regular count hovered above 600 for six days.
As clusters of the virus continue to emerge from small gatherings, often in the greater city, authorities have reimposed a ban on nightclubs, karaoke bars, and other nightly entertainment facilities, effective Monday. The total number of infections has increased to 110,146, with 1,770 deaths.