SEOUL, Aug. 21 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea is moving to secure a sufficient supply of coronavirus vaccines through close international cooperation and local development, the government said Friday.
The move comes as countries around the world have been racing to find drugs that can combat the pandemic that has killed more than 796,000 around the world.
Officials said the government will participate in international joint vaccine development projects and forge ties with leading global pharmaceutical companies in a move to get adequate quantities of vaccines.
Initially, South Korea wants to secure vaccines that can be given to 20 million people — nearly 40 percent of its 51 million population — by participating in a global program known as the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility.
The project aims to develop a vaccine and equitably give it to 20 percent of the world’s population.
South Korea also said it will support joint projects between South Korean biotech companies and multinational pharmaceuticals for the development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatment drugs.
South Korean officials said the goal is to vaccinate everyone in the country, but if it is hard to inoculate some 70 percent of the population, it can provide South Korea with “herd immunity” from COVID-19.
Doctors and other medical workers and people suffering from poor health can get a vaccine first.
In addition to international cooperation, Seoul vowed to support local vaccine and treatment drug development efforts to the end, even if a foreign drugmaker announces breakthroughs first.
The government said that of the 193.6 billion-won (US$163.4 million) extra budget passed by lawmakers in July, 83 percent of the funds have already been used to assist local development of drugs and vaccines.
It said the aim is to come up with locally produced treatment drugs by the end of this year and finish the development of a vaccine in 2021.
At present, local health authorities have approved clinical tests for plasma therapy materials developed jointly by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and GC Pharma, and an antibody drug candidate materials made by NIH and Celltrion Inc., as well as foreign drugs.
In regards to vaccines, Seoul has permitted testing on materials under development by Genexine, SK Bioscience and GeneOne Life Science.