South Korea is in negotiations with mRNA vaccine makers including Pfizer and Moderna to produce COVID-19 jabs in the country and is ready to offer the capacity to make up to 1 billion doses immediately, a senior government official said.
The plan, if approved, would help ease tight global supply of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly in Asia which falls behind North America and Europe in vaccine rollouts, and put South Korea a step closer to its ambition to become a major vaccine manufacturing centre.
South Korea already has agreements to locally manufacture 3 coronavirus vaccines developed by AstraZeneca/Oxford University, Novavax, and Russia. It also has a vaccine bottling and packaging deal with Moderna.
“We’ve been holding frequent talks with big pharmaceutical companies to produce mRNA vaccines,” Lee Kang-ho, director general for the global vaccine hub committee under South Korea’s health ministry, told Reuters in an interview.
“There are only a few mRNA vaccine developers – Pfizer, Moderna, CureVac and BioNTech. Thus there’s a limit to how much they can produce to meet global demand… South Korea is keen to help by offering its facilities and skilled human resources,” Lee said.
It’s not immediately clear how advanced these talks are and whether and when a deal will be agreed.