SEOUL, 22 Feb. (Yonhap) – South Korea could produce locally developed vaccines against the novel coronavirus early next year, Science and ICT Minister Choi Ki-young said on Monday as the country shuts down. prepares for a prolonged fight against the pandemic.

The minister said the government would continue to support local development of coronavirus vaccines, although the country has sourced sufficient quantities of vaccines from foreign pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

The country plans to start the Covid-19 vaccination program with vaccines from AstraZeneca on Friday and with those from Pfizer on Saturday. South Korea has obtained vaccines to inoculate 79 million people, a number greater than its population of 51.6 million.

“We don’t know how long the vaccines will stay effective, and there could be multiple strains of the virus,” Choi said at a press briefing. “We can’t just rely on foreign vaccines.”

“If we continue to support the development of local vaccines, we will be able to respond more quickly to new diseases or strains of viruses.”

Last week, the government said it will inject 131.4 billion won ($ 118.4 million) this year to help South Korean pharmaceutical companies conduct clinical trials on vaccines and treatments for the Covid-19.

Local pharmaceutical companies are currently developing synthetic antigenic vaccines, DNA vaccines, and a viral vector vaccine. Phase 3 clinical trials of a South Korean vaccine could take place at the end of this year if development proceeds as planned, the minister said.

Choi said, however, that there are many uncertainties, so problems could arise in clinical trials.

He said it will be difficult to conduct the phase 3 trials in South Korea because it requires a large number of Covid-19 patients and due to possible cost issues.

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