NGOs urge Moon, Biden to make South Korea vaccine manufacturing hub

Seoul, May 20 (EFE).- South Korean civil society organizations and individuals on Thursday urged the presidents of South Korea and the United States to agree at their Friday White House summit to make the Asian country a Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing hub serving nations most in need.

More than a dozen health and pharmaceutical associations and around 200 individuals released an open letter Thursday underscoring Joe Biden’s support for the temporary waiver of patents on coronavirus vaccines and the fact that Moon Jae-in has highlighted the “importance of international solidarity” in South Korea.

However, the signatories say that “the United States must transfer the vaccine production technology to other countries, including the Republic of Korea [South Korea], and vaccines developed with transferred technology should be used for developing countries.”

“In addition, the Republic of Korea has to secure domestic vaccine production facilities and equipment in order to produce the vaccines sufficiently,” the letter added.

Regarding patents, the text urges “compulsory measures on companies in both countries to make sure the medical technology for Covid-19 can be used freely around the world.”

The letter comes at a time when many countries are facing vaccine supply problems and the potential of South Korea, which is home to leading contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) of the world’s pharmaceutical industry, has not been utilized.

South Korean companies such as SK Bioscience (which manufactures the AstraZeneca vaccine), or Huons Global and GL Rapha (which produce Sputnik V for distribution outside of South Korea) have already signed manufacturing agreements, but it is expected that Samsung Biologics, the nation’s largest CMO, will jump on the bandwagon by signing one with Pfizer.

Moon has said that during his meeting with Biden on Friday in Washington there will be talk of “strengthening cooperation” on vaccines and promoting the goal of turning South Korea into a major production hub for these drugs.

The South Korean government has already proposed to the US, which has not yet given a clear answer, a “swap” agreement whereby it would receive American vaccines immediately and would return them later after sealing agreements to produce them locally.

Due to the shortage of supply, only 7.3 percent of the South Korean population has received a vaccine dose. EFE


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