S.Korea authorizes Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, imports Pfizer pills

A vial and syringe are seen in front of a displayed Novavax logo in this illustration taken January 11, 2021. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration

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SEOUL, January 12 (Reuters) – South Korea is resorting to additional pharmaceutical tools as it appears to prevent an increase in COVID-19 omicron infections, approving the use of Novavax Inc’s vaccine on Wednesday and preparing to distribute the first of Pfizers antiviral pills.

At least 21,000 of Pfizer’s (PFE.N) antiviral pills, called Paxlovid, will arrive in South Korea on Thursday, with another 10,000 more expected to arrive by the end of the month, the health ministry said.

The pills, which were approved for emergency use in December, will begin to be used in treatments for more than 1,000 people per day from Friday, the ministry added.

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“Oral treatment is scheduled to begin first for patients aged 65 or older, or patients with reduced immunity in the home and treatment centers,” a ministry spokesman said in a statement.

Paxlovid was almost 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in patients at high risk for serious illness, according to data from the company’s clinical study. Recent laboratory data suggest that the drug retains its effectiveness against Omicron, Pfizer has said. read more

South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has meanwhile announced that it has authorized the Novavax (NVAX.O) vaccine, which joins the ranks of previously authorized vaccines made by AstraZeneca Inc (AZN.L), Moderna Inc (AZN.L) , Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnsons (JNJ.N) Janssen.

The South Korean vaccine developer SK Bioscience Co Ltd (302440.KS) said they will produce the Novavax (NVAX.O) vaccine.

The two-dose, protein-based vaccine has secured authorizations from EU regulators and the World Health Organization. read more

It is authorized in India, Indonesia and the Philippines, where Novavax’s partner, the Serum Institute of India, will deliver it.

Novavax is awaiting approval in Japan, where the vaccine will be manufactured and distributed by Takeda Pharmaceutical (4502.T).

At least 84.2% of the country’s 52 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated, while 42.5% have received booster injections, according to health authorities.

South Korea added 4,388 new COVID-19 cases by midnight Tuesday, for a total of 674,868 cases and 6,166 deaths since the pandemic began, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported.

This number has dropped from all-time highs to almost 8,000 daily cases in mid-December, when the authorities again introduced strict measures for social distancing to try to curb the tide.

Omicron accounts for only a fraction of South Korea’s cases so far, but this percentage has risen to more than 12.5% ​​from 4% at the end of December, health officials said on Wednesday.

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Reporting by Heekyong Yang, Joyce Lee and Yeni Seo; Author by Josh Smith; Edited by Clarence Fernandez

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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