Supply issues delays Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shipments, says South Korea

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Moderna has pushed back its late-July vaccine shipment schedule for South Korea to August due to supply problems that will affect other countries waiting on its shots, South Korean health officials said on Tuesday.

The shipment delay comes as the government is expanding its inoculation campaign to people in their 50s and workers in its vital computer chip and electronic sector. The disruption has forced authorities to switch to the Pfizer vaccine for some vaccinations.

The supply issue is linked to the vaccine manufacturing process involving Swiss contract drug maker Lonza and a Spain-based company that does bottling work for the Moderna vaccine, said Jung Eun-young, head of the vaccine procurement team.

“This means the production-related issue does not only affect South Korea. Rather it is a common problem for countries that receive the volume from the manufacturing site,” Jung said during a news conference.

She did not name the Spanish firm, but contract drug-maker Rovi bottles, or “fills and finishes,” Moderna vaccines for markets other than the United States.

Lonza said questions concerning the COVID-19 vaccine should be directed to Moderna, which did not immediately reply to Reuters’ requests for comment. Rovi was not immediately available for comment.

South Korea has a contract for 40 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, of which about 1.1 million have already arrived.

It is currently battling a fourth wave of infections linked to the spread of the more contagious Delta variant and public complacency that has seen daily cases breach the 1 000 mark for the first time since December.

Authorities reported 1 365 new coronavirus cases for Monday.

It was not immediately clear which other countries will be impacted by the disruption of Moderna supplies nor how severe the production issue was.

South Korean officials said the Moderna vaccines scheduled to arrive in August remained on schedule, adding that a detailed shipment plan would be made public once finalised.

Slightly more than 34% of South Korea’s population of 52million has received at least one vaccine dose while 13.5% are fully vaccinated.