Fresh talks start for more Pfizer shots

Fresh talks start for more Pfizer shots
President Moon Jae-in attends a signing ceremony for a Korea-US global vaccine partnership in New York on Tuesday. (Yonhap)President Moon Jae-in continued his vaccine diplomacy in New York, launching a fresh round of talks on securing more COVID shots from Pfizer and a new $52.5 million investment plan unveiled by US bioprocess vendor Cytiva to boost Korea’s vaccine production.

Moon on Tuesday met with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla to discuss multilateral ways on how Korea and the US vaccine producer can work together for vaccine cooperation, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

Moon talked about securing additional vaccine supply and emphasized the importance of getting the vaccine supply early next year, asking for Bourla’s proactive interest and support.

“We hope the contract to bring in additional vaccines in the next year can go smoothly, following the first contract. With booster shots and age expansion for inoculation, it is necessary to receive signed doses as early as possible,” Moon was quoted as saying.

In response, Bourla said he will take note of the requests and seriously review them. He added that since there are surpluses for next year, it would be possible to move up the timeline if they can quickly sign an agreement.

Last month, the government signed a contract with the US vaccine manufacturer to purchase 30 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine for the next year.

According to Cheong Wa Dae, Bourla expressed appreciation and respect for Korea’s science technology and pointed out that there are a lot of possibilities for Pfizer to strengthen cooperation with Korea as it produces other vaccines besides anti-COVID-19 ones and medicines for other diseases.

President Moon said combining Pfizer’s vaccine-developing capabilities with Korea’s production abilities could ramp up distribution of vaccines across the world and help boost the vaccination rate for developing countries.

The two sides also talked about the necessity of booster shots and inoculation for children aged 5 to 11. Bourla said booster shots are necessary, pointing toward the examples of Israel, France, Germany and the UK. Citing recent research, he also said children aged 5 to 11 can achieve the same immune response from getting only a third of a regular vaccine dose.

Pfizer was the fifth major vaccine producer that the Korean president has met, following meetings with the heads of Moderna, Novavax, AstraZeneca and CureVac since December.

Also on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Moon later in the day attended a vaccine partnership ceremony between Korea and the US.

During the ceremony, US bioprocess vendor Cytiva’s decision to invest $52.5 million in Korea for vaccine production was announced.

Cytiva, a global provider of technologies and services for developing and manufacturing therapeutics, submitted its plan to make the investment from 2022 until 2024 to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

According to Cheong Wa Dae, Cytiva’s investment is the first global vaccine material producer to invest in a new manufacturing facility in Korea since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The plan is to produce vaccine materials, such as disposable bags for cell culture, and distribute them in and out of the country.

The driving factors behind Cytiva’s decision to invest in Korea include the country’s top-notch manufacturing capabilities for biopharmaceuticals and the government’s active commitment to fostering the development of the vaccine industry, Cheong Wa Dae said.

Last month, Seoul announced its plan to invest 2.2 trillion won ($1.8 billion) over the next five years in its push to become a global vaccine hub.

Korean and US companies along with research institutes also signed eight memorandums of understanding during Tuesday’s vaccine partnership ceremony.

Cheong Wa Dae said the agreements showed that Korean companies have now secured a stepping stone to enter the global market as they are connected to the global supply chain by cooperating with American companies.

The beginning of the Korea-US vaccine partnership in May helped cement the two countries’ willingness and main direction with global conglomerates, such as SK Bioscience, Samsung Biologics, Novavax and Moderna, in attendance, Cheong Wa Dae said.

The latest development meant the field and basis of the Korea-US cooperation are expanding as small and medium-sized companies agreed to work together on practical and detailed ways, it added.

By Kan Hyeong-woo (hwkan@heraldcorp.com)

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