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S. Korea's health minister to meet with US health secretary

By Yonhap

Published : May 21, 2021 - 21:18

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Heath Minister Kwon Deok-cheol speaks to reporters at Incheon airport, west of Seoul, on Friday, before his departure for Washington to hold talks with US officials and businesspeople on vaccines against the new coronavirus. (Yonhap) Heath Minister Kwon Deok-cheol speaks to reporters at Incheon airport, west of Seoul, on Friday, before his departure for Washington to hold talks with US officials and businesspeople on vaccines against the new coronavirus. (Yonhap)

South Korea's health minister said Friday that he will hold talks with his US counterpart this week to discuss ways to cooperate on COVID-19 vaccines.

Kwon Deok-cheol said his meeting with US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in Washington on Friday will be a good opportunity to strengthen cooperation between the two countries on health issues.

Kwon made the comments to reporters ahead of his departure to Washington earlier in the day.

The meeting comes on the sidelines of South Korean President Moon Jae-in's summit with US President Joe Biden on Friday.

In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that the United States welcomes the opportunity to discuss ways to help South Korea's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Korea has proposed a vaccine swap arrangement with the US to ease its temporary vaccine shortage.

The proposed arrangement calls for the US to provide COVID-19 vaccines to South Korea and get paid in full in vaccines when South Korea's orders arrive later in the year.

Kwon also plans to meet with executives of US pharmaceutical companies to discuss additional purchases of COVID-19 vaccines and technological cooperation, according the ministry.

South Korea has signed a contract with US biotech company Moderna Inc. to bring in vaccines for 20 million people with some of the bottles scheduled to arrive before June.

Speculation has been running high that Samsung Biologics, a biopharmaceutical unit of South Korea's top conglomerate, Samsung Group, may begin manufacturing Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines in South Korea in August at the earliest.

Separately, 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. (Yonhap)