Some 2.4 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine that Samsung Biologics has helped manufacture are being supplied for domestic use for the first time, South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare said Tuesday.
The ministry said the 2.4 million doses are among the first batch of Moderna’s vaccine from the plant in Incheon. The country’s drug regulators authorized the Samsung Biologics-produced doses for emergency use Monday, the ministry said, which differs from the type of approval given to the imported doses.
Samsung Biologics’ deal with Moderna to “fill-and-finish” manufacture its COVID-19 vaccine was announced in May as one of the outcomes from President Moon Jae-in’s US trip the same month. Under the deal, the Korean drugmaker handles the final stage in the manufacturing process of putting the bulk vaccines into vials and packaging them for shipping.
Jung Eun-young, who is one of the officials leading the ministry’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement efforts, said in a response to press inquiries during a briefing that how many doses made from the deal will be put to domestic use was “still being negotiated.”
Giving Korea priority access to more doses from the Samsung Biologics plant has not been agreed, she said, but “there’s an understanding with Moderna that from an efficiency as well as safety standpoint, using doses made in Korea for supply here is more desirable.”
She said the newly authorized Moderna doses were set to become available some time next month, without giving further details.
In the same briefing, Vice Health Minister Yoo Geun-heag said having more doses made in Korea would help stabilize vaccine supply here, and boost the country’s place as a “global vaccine hub.”
Moderna’s is the second brand of COVID-19 vaccine to be manufactured by a Korean company for rollout at home, the ministry said. AstraZeneca doses from an SK Bioscience plant in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, were distributed locally in February.
The Korean government has sealed a deal for 40 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, of which about 17 million doses have so far arrived. According to previous announcements by the ministry, Moderna is obligated to deliver the total ordered doses before the year’s end. The latest addition of 2.4 million doses is a part of the purchased amount.
The two-dose mRNA vaccine became the fourth COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in Korea in May, following those made by AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
By Monday at midnight, 70 percent of the Korean population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, eight months after the vaccine campaign launched in late February.
By Kim Arin (firstname.lastname@example.org