Moderna, Novavax to produce more COVID-19 vaccines in S.Korea

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Test tubes are seen in front of a displayed Moderna logo in this illustration taken, May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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May 22 (Reuters) - Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) and Novavax Inc (NVAX.O) entered into a deal with the South Korean government to manufacture their COVID-19 vaccines, as the country has been under pressure to secure more and faster deliveries of U.S.-made vaccines.

Saturday's agreements with the U.S. drugmakers came a day after U.S. President Joe Biden said that he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in had agreed on a comprehensive partnership on COVID-19 vaccines and that the United States would provide vaccinations for 550,000 South Korean soldiers. read more

Moon, under pressure over the COVID-19 pandemic, said a vaccine partnership would combine U.S. expertise and Korean production capacity.

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Moderna, whose shot was granted approval in South Korea on Friday, said on Saturday its vaccine will be manufactured by Samsung Biologics Co (207940.KS) and that it intends to supply these vaccines to markets outside the United States starting in the third quarter.

South Korea has emerged as a global vaccine production base with its fourth COVID-19 vaccine contract manufacturing deal, Vice Health Minister Kang Do-tae told a briefing on Sunday.

"The establishment of the South Korea-U.S. vaccine partnership is to build the basis for mass production of vaccines domestically by combining the advanced technology of the U.S. with production capabilities of South Korea," said Kang.

South Korea has deals to locally produce coronavirus vaccines developed by AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) and Novavax, and Russia's Sputnik V. The country has secured access to 40 million doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, the authorities had said.

"We will continue to explore options for establishing potential local manufacturing opportunities in South Korea," Moderna Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said in a press release.

Novavax also on Saturday reaffirmed its partnership with South Korean firm SK bioscience Co Ltd (302440.KS) to expand its production of vaccines, including the U.S. drug developer's protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

In February, Novavax had entered into a license agreement with the South Korea manufacturer to produce 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for the country.

South Korea, which has vaccinated fewer than 10% of its 52 million people, aims to inoculate at least 70% by September. It has ordered up to 192 million doses of those made by AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Novavax, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N).

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 585 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, bringing the total tally to 135,929 infections, with 1,931 deaths.

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Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru Editing by Nick Zieminski

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