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(LEAD) S. Korea to receive 2.71 mln doses of COVID-19 vaccines via COVAX in H1

National 19:36 February 04, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, Feb. 4 (Yonhap) -- At least 2.71 million doses of coronavirus vaccines are expected to arrive in South Korea in the first half through an international vaccine procurement program, health authorities said Thursday.

The country will receive 117,000 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccines and 2.59 million doses of vaccines by AstraZeneca through the World Health Organization's global vaccine project, known as the COVAX Facility.

The country with a 52 million population has secured access to coronavirus vaccines enough for 56 million people. The COVAX project will supply 20 million doses of vaccines to inoculate 10 million people.

The country has inked deals to secure vaccines from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, which require two shots, and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen, which requires one jab. The nation is also close to striking a deal to buy coronavirus vaccines from U.S. drugmaker Novavax.

This photo, taken Feb. 3, 2021, shows a mock drill for COVID-19 vaccine receipt, handling and distribution at a central vaccination center at the National Medical Center in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The government said it has no plan to purchase Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, which showed 91.6 percent of efficacy in the third stage clinical test.

South Korea plans to begin COVID-19 vaccinations later this month, with front-line medical workers receiving the first shots.

Vaccines from U.S. pharmaceutical firm Pfizer are expected to be first shipped to the country through the COVAX Facility.

On Switzerland's decision to withhold approval for AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, the South Korean government said it will await the outcome of a review by the country's drug safety agency.

A controversy arose globally on the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine for the elderly, as there is not enough data to back its efficacy in older people.

In its first meeting Sunday over an efficacy review of the vaccine, a panel of South Korean medical experts said AstraZeneca's vaccine can be administered to elderly people.

The independent advisory panel held a second meeting later Thursday but has yet to reach a conclusion.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it will postpone the announcement of its results to Friday.

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