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Moon to meet Novavax CEO on vaccine production

President Moon Jae-in attends a weekly meeting with presidential secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday. (Cheong Wa Dae)
President Moon Jae-in attends a weekly meeting with presidential secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday. (Cheong Wa Dae)

President Moon Jae-in is expected to hold a face-to-face meeting with Novavax CEO Stanley Erck on Tuesday amid the pending production of the US drugmaker's new COVID-19 vaccine here, according to Cheong Wa Dae on Monday.

“The president will exchange opinions on the expansion of the vaccine production partnership with Novavax and discuss ways to advance the adoption, including an earlier regulatory approval,” presidential spokesperson Park Kyung-mee said.

Moon and Erck held their first video conversation in January and agreed to produce 40 million doses of Novavax’s vaccine at the local facilities of South Korean contract manufacturer SK Bioscience. The deal also includes technology transfer to the Korean drugmaker that would elevate production efficiency overall.

Park didn’t further elaborate on the key agenda of the meeting, but expectations are already running high that they could discuss the possible expansion of the planned vaccine production amid lingering concerns over limited vaccine supplies here.

Over the weekend, the government said it had secured an additional 40 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, raising the total quantity of COVID-19 vaccines secured to 192 million doses -- enough for 99 million people, nearly double the nation’s population.

With vaccine supply efforts appearing to be on track, the government said it plans to further accelerate the vaccine rollout. Currently, the nation’s vaccination rate remains at about 4 percent, one of the lowest among developed countries.

The Novavax CEO arrived in Seoul on Monday to hold multiple meetings with SK Bioscience officials and the nation’s health authorities affiliated with the vaccine campaign task force. Later in the day, he was also scheduled to look around the drugmaker’s production facilities in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, where AstraZeneca’s vaccine is also being produced for local consumption.

The new Novavax vaccine is currently being assessed by US and UK regulators. As soon as both countries grant approval, possibly in the coming weeks, the Korean drug agency is also expected to complete its review.

On Monday, Moon also called for efforts to allay public anxiety about limited vaccine supplies and delayed vaccinations during his weekly meeting with senior officials at Cheong Wa Dae, stressing that the vaccine issue should not be politicized.

"Politicization of vaccines could spur unnecessary fears among the people. The government is ramping up efforts to secure enough vaccines and speed up rollout,” he said. “I’m confident of achieving our vaccine goals as planned.”

The country aims to vaccinate 3 million people by this month and 12 million by end-June, with a goal of attaining herd immunity by November. 

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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