Medical Technology

South Korea Authorizes Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Imports Pfizer Pills

SEOUL (Reuters). South Korea is seeking additional pharmaceutical tools to prevent the increase in COVID-19 infection. On Wednesday, Novavax Inc approved the use of its vaccine. Pfizer was preparing to release the first antiviral pills.

At least 21,000 Pfizer’s antiviral pills, called Paxlovid will be shipped to South Korea on Thursday, with another 10,000 more expected to arrive at the end of the month the health ministry said.

The protease-inhibitor pills, authorised for emergency use in December, will start being used in treatments for more than 1,000 people each day from Friday, according to the ministry.

“By prioritization, oral treatment is planned to begin first for patients 65 years old or older, or patients who have a lower immunity, at home and residential treatment centres,” a ministry spokesperson spoke at a briefing.

Based on data from the company’s clinical trial, Paxlovid was almost 90 percent effective in preventing deaths and hospitalizations for patients who are at risk of serious illnesses. Pfizer states that the effectiveness of the drug against Omicron has not changed based on recent lab data.

South Korea’s food and drug safety ministry, in turn, announced that it had granted approval to the Novavax vaccine that is among the previously authorised vaccines made by AstraZeneca Inc, Moderna Inc, Pfizer, and Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen.

South Korean vaccine developer SK Bioscience Co Ltd announced that it will produce Novavax vaccine.

Two-dose protein-subunit vaccine that contains an adjuvant that is proprietary has been approved by the European Union regulators as well as the World Health Organization.

It has been authorised in India, Indonesia and the Philippines in which Novavax’s affiliate, Serum Institute of India, will supply it.

Novavax is waiting for approval in Japan, where its vaccine will be manufactured and distributed by Takeda Pharmaceutical.

At the very least, 84.2 percent of the country’s 52 million population have been fully vaccinated while 42.5%, have received booster shots according to health officials.

According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, (KDCA), South Korea had added 4,388 COVID-19 cases since midnight on Tuesday. This is the total of 674,868 and 6,166 deaths since the pandemic started.

The figure has fallen from its all-time highs at more than 8,000 daily cases in mid-December, when authorities imposed strict social distancing to stem the tide.

Omicron is only responsible for only a small percentage of South Korea’s cases but the proportion has increased to more than 12.5% from 4 percent at the end of December, health officials said on Wednesday.

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