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

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

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SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea is turning to additional pharmaceutical tools as it looks to pre-empt a surge in Omicron COVID-19 infections, allowing use of Novavax Inc’s vaccine on Wednesday and preparing to distribute Pfizer’s first antiviral tablets. .

At least 21,000 of Pfizer’s antiviral tablets, called Paxilvid, will arrive in South Korea on Thursday, the Health Ministry said, with another 10,000 expected by the end of the month.

The ministry added that the pills, which were allowed for emergency use in December, will start being used in treatments for more than 1,000 people per day starting Friday.

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“As priority, oral therapy is scheduled to begin first for patients 65 years of age or older, or patients with low immunity at home and residential treatment centers,” a ministry spokesperson said at a press briefing.

Paxlovid was nearly 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in patients at risk for severe disease, according to data from the company’s clinical trial. Pfizer said recent laboratory data indicates that the drug retains effectiveness against Omicron. Read more

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

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

The two-dose, protein-based vaccine has received approvals from regulators in the European Union and the World Health Organization. Read more

It is licensed in India, Indonesia and the Philippines, which will be supplied by Novavax’s partner, Serum Institute of India.

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

At least 84.2% of the country’s population of 52 million has been fully vaccinated, while 42.5% have received booster shots, according to health officials.

South Korea added 4,388 new cases of COVID-19 as of 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) said.

That number has fallen from an all-time high of around 8,000 daily cases in mid-December, when authorities reimposed strict social distancing measures in an effort to stem the tide.

Health officials said Wednesday that Omicron accounts for only a fraction of the cases in South Korea so far, but that proportion has risen to more than 12.5% ​​from 4% at the end of December.

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Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang, Joyce Lee, and Yeni Seo; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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