South Korea approves its first homemade Covid vaccine for people aged above 18

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File photo: People receive the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Seoul on 28 July (AP)
File photo: People receive the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Seoul on 28 July (AP)

The South Korean government has approved the country’s first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine for people aged 18 and above in a major step towards vaccine sovereignty in Seoul’s fight against the pandemic.

The two-dose SKYCovione vaccine, developed by SK Bioscience, was approved after it successfully completed all three phases of its clinical trial and appeared to be more effective than AstraZeneca jabs, according to officials at the country’s Food and Drug Safety Ministry.

The third phase of trial was conducted in Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand, Ukraine, the Philippines and South Korea.

Food and Drug Safety minister Oh Yu-kyoung said in a briefing: “The approval [of SKYCovione] internationally confirms the abilities of our companies to develop Covid-19 vaccines.”

She said that the pharmaceutical company was seeking approval from the World Health Organisation for its vaccine, which would potentially open export opportunities.

The approval is expected to boost the country’s vaccination efforts, which have so far been mainly dependant on Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines.

Officials say SKYCovione is a protein vaccine, which is similar to those in rampant use against the common flu and hepatitis B – a feature that could appeal to people who have been hesitant so far.

Almost 87 per cent of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated as of late Thursday, according to the government. Around 65 per cent have also received a third shot.

South Korean minister of food and drug safety Oh Yu-Kyoung speaks during a briefing in Cheongju (AP)
South Korean minister of food and drug safety Oh Yu-Kyoung speaks during a briefing in Cheongju (AP)

The country’s coronavirus infection has receded in recent days but the health ministry recorded 10,463 new cases on Wednesday, the first spike over the 10,000 mark in 20 days.

The number of infections has come down and the country eased most of the virus restrictions after it battled an Omicron surge earlier this year. But health experts note that country may see another spike as immunity from vaccination among the people could be waning.

Health ministry official Son Young-rae said it was too early to gauge whether the country is facing another surge after a months-long downward trend.

Additional reporting by agencies

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