By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea has reached a deal with AstraZeneca PLC to purchase its coronavirus vaccine candidate as it seeks to secure supplies amid a resurgence of outbreaks, local media reported on Thursday.
The government has said it was in final talks with global drugmakers including AstraZeneca, Pfizer Inc and Johnson & Johnson over their experimental vaccines, and launched a preliminary review of AstraZeneca's product in October for potential fast-track approval.
The JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said health authorities signed a contract with the Britain-based company on Nov. 27, and were nearing agreements with Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, citing an unidentified government official.
"The AstraZeneca deal has been done, and a memorandum of understanding was reached with both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. But further negotiations are needed to finalise the amount of supplies and the timing of shipment," the official was quoted as saying.
The Yonhap news agency also reported, citing an unnamed health official, that an agreement with AstraZeneca was inked recently and the government would make an announcement as early as next week after completing negotiations with other firms.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said that the JoongAng report was not the government's official position but that it would finalise talks and unveil comprehensive results shortly.
The KDCA has said 172 billion won ($157 million) was set aside to buy an initial 60 million doses this year, enough to vaccinate about 60% of the country's population of 52 million, around the second quarter of 2021.
It has secured 20 million doses via the COVAX facility, an international COVID-19 vaccine allocation platform co-led by the WHO.
($1 = 1,097.0800 won)
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin)