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(LEAD) AstraZeneca to start supplying COVID-19 vaccines from Feb. 24

All News 21:47 February 08, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, background in paras 7-11)

SEOUL, Feb. 8 (Yonhap) -- AstraZeneca will start delivering the first batch of its COVID-19 vaccine to South Korea starting from Feb. 24, South Korean health authorities said Monday.

The virus response control tower said in a statement that AstraZeneca's vaccine will be supplied in phases from Feb. 24 over the following several days, without elaborating on the amount of doses and other details.

The announcement came after Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in a parliamentary meeting that he expects the first phase of inoculation will begin as soon as vaccines are delivered on the cited date.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) also said earlier in the day that 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine will be provided in the final week of this month.

Separately, at least 2.71 million doses of coronavirus vaccines are expected to arrive in South Korea in the first half, the KDCA said.

The pharmaceutical company in early January sought emergency use approval for its vaccines manufactured by SK Bioscience Co., a vaccine unit of South Korea's SK Group, at a factory in the country.

Employees at SK Bioscience Co.'s factory in Andong, 230 kilometers southeast of Seoul, package AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 20, 2021. (Yonhap)

The vaccine developed by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant and Oxford University is deemed more convenient for mass inoculation as its storage temperature is 2 to 8 C.

However, the vaccine faces questions over its safety for the elderly as there is not enough data to back its efficacy in that age group.

Last week, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said an expert panel cautioned against inoculating people aged 65 or older with the vaccine, citing insufficient data.

The panel advised the ministry to approve AstraZeneca's two full-dose regimen on the condition that the pharmaceutical firm submit further data on clinical trials on adults over age 18.

The ministry said it plans to decide whether to approve the use of AstraZeneca's vaccines in a final review meeting on Wednesday.

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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