SEOUL, April 24 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea said Saturday it has signed a deal with U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. to import additional Pfizer vaccine doses for 20 million people in a move that could ease public concerns about a vaccine shortage.
The deal came after South Korean health minister Kwon Deok-cheol held two video conferences with his Pfizer counterpart on April 9 and 23.
“The additional deal would allow South Korea to receive coronavirus vaccines more stably,” Kwon said in a news conference at the government complex building in Seoul.
South Korea is set to receive Pfizer vaccine doses for 3.5 million people by the end of June. Among them, Pfizer vaccine doses for 875,000 people have already been delivered to South Korea.
Additional Pfizer vaccines for 29.5 million people are scheduled to be supplied to South Korea in phases, beginning in July.
The latest deal raised the total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses from the World Health Organization’s global vaccine COVAX Facility project and five pharmaceutical companies to an amount enough to inoculate 99 million people, an amount that is 2.75 times of the 36 million that is needed to achieve herd immunity here.
The five pharmaceutical companies are AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen and Novavax.
The move could help South Korea meet possible additional demand for vaccines, including booster shots to better fight COVID-19, amid uncertainty over global vaccine supply.
Booster shots refer to an extra jab of a vaccine after full inoculation to bolster a person’s immune system.
South Korea said it has been in talks with Novavax, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen to introduce 2.71 million does by the end of June.
Kwon said the government plans to vaccinate 12 million out of the country’s 52 million population by the end of June to achieve herd immunity by November. The country started its inoculation campaign in late February.
Kwon also said South Korea is set to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses for 50 million people by the end of September.
As of midnight Friday, 2,195,492 people, or 4.3 percent of the population, had received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, up 158,581 from a day earlier, with 98,767 people, or 0.2 percent of the population, vaccinated with two doses, up 19,613 from a day ago.