Moon prioritizes vaccine diplomacy while in US

한겨레 입력 2021. 9. 23. 17:26 수정 2021. 9. 23. 18:36
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South Korean President Moon Jae-in used his time in the US to discuss vaccine cooperation with US companies and make vaccine supply deals with Vietnam and the UK
President Moon Jae-in poses for a photo with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla prior to a meeting between the two in New York on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in made further progress on “vaccine diplomacy” while visiting the US to attend the UN General Assembly.

Moon attended a signing ceremony for vaccine cooperation between South Korea and the US in New York on Wednesday. During the ceremony, Cytiva, an American producer of raw and supplementary materials for vaccines, announced plans to invest US$52.5 million in building a manufacturing facility in South Korea.

“Broad cooperation on everything from supplying raw and supplementary materials to developing and producing vaccines will further strengthen the foundation for vaccine production in our two countries,” Moon said.

Cytiva’s plan denotes the first time a foreign producer of vaccine materials has invested in a manufacturing facility in South Korea. The Cytiva facility plans to produce disposable cell culture fluid, a substance that is in short supply around the world.

Moon sat down with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla before the signing ceremony. According to Blue House spokesperson Park Kyung-mee, Moon told Bourla that it was imperative that Korea receive the agreed-upon supply of vaccines as early as possible, given booster shots and the widening range of ages becoming eligible for vaccination.

Moon also suggested that Pfizer could arrange for South Korean companies to handle some of its production, saying that collaboration between Korea and the company would aid efforts to provide more vaccines to countries around the world and raise vaccination rates in developing nations.

Bourla responded that Pfizer would bear in mind the request.

Moon also met with the leaders of the UK and Vietnam during the UN General Assembly, with whom he discussed arrangements for supplying and swapping more vaccines. Moon said that South Korea would be sending more than a million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam in October during a summit with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Wednesday.

This is the first time that Korea has agreed to directly provide vaccines to another country. It shows that Korea can afford to help other countries now that its partial vaccination rate has exceeded 70 percent.

Previously, the Korean government had only provided financial support, such as pledging US$200 million to COVAX, an initiative that aims to provide COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries.

Earlier, Moon announced that he’d reached an agreement with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a summit on Monday to conduct a swap through which Korea would receive a portion of the UK’s COVID-19 vaccine supply.

“It’s likely that 1 million doses of mRNA [vaccines] will begin arriving in Korea from the UK on Sept. 25,” the Blue House said.

With this additional vaccine supply, the Blue House intends to reduce the gap between first and second doses, moving toward the goal of fully vaccinating 70 percent of the population before the end of October.

By Lee Wan, staff reporter

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