S. Korea vows to lend hand with global vaccine supply shortages

May 26, 2021

- South Korea vowed Wednesday to play a bigger role in easing global shortages of COVID-19 vaccines during a meeting with a group of countries supporting a multilateral trading regime.

“To promptly overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that the production and supply of vaccines are expanded around the globe,” Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee said during the virtual meeting of the Ottawa Group.

The Ottawa Group refers to a group of 14 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) seeking to revamp the international trade body, including South Korea, Canada, Australia, Chile and Britain.

In December, the group also called for the world to allow free movement of key medical products to cope with the pandemic.

During the meeting, Yoo said South Korea will play a bigger role in easing supply shortages of vaccines by emerging as a global hub of production.

Last week, South Korea said its plan to become a global vaccine hub got a boost as Samsung BioLogics Co. signed a deal to bottle Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine at its local plant.

Under the deal, the pharmaceutical arm of Samsung Group will ship the Moderna vaccine from the third quarter at the earliest. Samsung will be tasked with providing fill-and-finish, labeling and packaging services to Moderna.

In South Korea, production of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine has been under way, and pilot production of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine is set to begin in August.

SK Bioscience, a vaccine development subsidiary of South Korea’s SK Group, has also signed a deal with the U.S. vaccine producer Novavax for consignment production of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine.

Yoo added South Korea agreed to speed up cooperation with Washington to strengthen joint response capabilities against infectious diseases, clinching the so-called KORUS Global Vaccine Partnership.

Based on such efforts, the trade ministry said South Korea will spare no efforts to expand the supply of vaccines.

Members of the Ottawa Group also shared ideas on the wavier of patents on COVID-19 vaccines.

Yoo added the world needs to join forces for the stable supply of related materials and lend a hand to the COVAX Facility project.