SEOUL, South Korea — Health officials in South Korea say Maryland-based Novavax has agreed to a licensing arrangement that will allow a South Korean biotech firm to produce its coronavirus vaccines for later this year.
Kwon Deok-cheol, South Korea’s health minister, said Monday that SK Bioscience plans to produce 20 million Novavax shots through September, all of which will be used locally. Production could start as early as June.
Food and Drug Safety Minister Kim Gang-lip, who joined Kwon in a news conference, said Novavax’s vaccines are currently being reviewed by regulators in Europe and Britain, but didn’t speculate on when the shots would be approved in major countries.
SK Bioscience is already producing vaccines developed by AstraZeneca at its manufacturing facility in Andong. South Korea has mainly relied on these shots since it launched its mass immunization campaign in February, but there are fears over possible shortages as officials wrestle with a slower vaccine rollout than many other developed economies.
While South Korea hopes to get 150 million doses of coronavirus vaccines this year through bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies and the WHO-backed COVAX program, it has got just over 3 million doses so far.
A little over 1.15 million people have received their first doses as of Monday. Officials have so far maintained their goal of vaccinating 70% of the country’s 51 million people before the start of the new influenza season around November.