South Korea to Deploy Pfizer COVID-19 Pills; Authorizes Novavax Vaccine

January 13, 2022Updated: January 13, 2022

SEOUL—South Korea authorized the use of Novavax Inc.’s vaccine on Wednesday and will begin treating coronavirus patients with Pfizer’s antiviral pills on Friday.

Some 630,000 of Pfizer’s Paxlovid pills, enough for 21,000 people, arrived on Thursday to be distributed to 280 pharmacies and 90 residential treatment centers, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The pills, which were authorized for emergency use in December, will begin being used in treatments for more than 1,000 people per day starting on Friday, the health ministry said.

“By priority, oral treatment is planned to begin first for patients aged 65 or older, or patients with reduced immunity at home and residential treatment centers,” a ministry spokesperson told a briefing.

Each patient was advised to take three pills at a time twice a day for five days, and another batch for 10,000 people, or 300,000 pills, are expected to arrive later in the month.

Paxlovid was nearly 90 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in patients at high risk of severe illness, according to data from the company’s clinical trial. Recent lab data suggests the drug retains its effectiveness against Omicron, Pfizer has said.

South Korea’s food and drug safety ministry, meanwhile, announced it had authorized the Novavax vaccine, which joins the ranks of previously authorized vaccines made by AstraZeneca Inc., Moderna Inc., Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen.

Novavax logo
A vial and sryinge are seen in front of a displayed Novavax logo in this illustration taken on Jan. 11, 2021. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)

South Korean vaccine developer SK Bioscience Co. Ltd. said it will produce the Novavax vaccine.

The two-dose, protein-based vaccine has secured authorizations from European Union regulators and the World Health Organization.

It has been authorized in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, where Novavax’s partner, Serum Institute of India, will supply it.

Novavax is awaiting approval in Japan, where its vaccine would be manufactured and distributed by Takeda Pharmaceutical.

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