SEOUL - The first of three expert panels in South Korea reviewing a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech gave its recommendation on Tuesday for the government to approve the vaccine.
The national pharmaceutical panel is planning to make its recommendation on Friday, the same day that South Korea will begin its immunisation drive. But, the government will wait for a third panel, which has not said when it will reach its conclusion, before deciding whether to grant approval.
High-risk individuals, prioritised at the start of the vaccination campaign, will be inoculated with a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
A day later, however, South Korea will make use of 117,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that have been supplied through COVAX, an international coronavirus vaccine sharing programme, bypassing the need for the government's final approval.
Around 55,000 healthcare workers in COVID-19 treatment facilities will receive the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Saturday.
The first panel to report on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine advised that it should be administered to people aged 16 and over, taking into account its global trial results and approval in several other countries.
Pfizer has promised to double its supply of the vaccine for the United States by the middle of March and also raised global production expectations for 2021 to at least 2 billion doses.
South Korea reported 357 new coronavirus cases on Monday. The total number of infections now stands at 87,681, with death toll of 1,573.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore) ((Sangmi.Cha@thomsonreuters.com; +82 2 3704 5646; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org))