South Korea approves first domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine

South Korean government minister of food and drug safety
South Korean Minister of Food and Drug Safety Oh Yu-kyoung speaks at a news briefing in the city of Cheongju on Wednesday.
(Chun Kyung-hwan / Yonhap)

Health officials in South Korea on Wednesday approved the country’s first domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine for people 18 years or older, adding another tool in the fight against the pandemic.

In clinical trials involving some 4,000 participants in South Korea and five other countries, SK Bioscience’s two-dose SKYCovione vaccine appeared to be more effective than the broadly used AstraZeneca shots in building immunity against infections, officials at South Korea’s Food and Drug Safety Ministry said.

It isn’t immediately clear how officials will administer the newly developed vaccine or how big of a role the shots will have in the next phase of the pandemic. The shots were designed for the original version of the coronavirus, not the more transmissible Omicron variant that wreaked havoc in the country and elsewhere around the world earlier this year.


U.S. vaccine giants Pfizer and Moderna have been speeding up their development of booster shots targeting Omicron, and experts say it’s possible the virus could evolve again in the coming months.

South Korea’s mass immunization campaign has been mainly dependent on Pfizer and Moderna’s shots using mRNA technology. But officials say protein vaccines like SKYCovione, which are similar to shots used for years against the flu and hepatitis B, could appeal to people who are hesitant to use vaccines developed with newer technologies.

“The approval [of SKYCovione] internationally confirms the abilities of our companies to develop COVID-19 vaccines,” South Korean Food and Drug Safety Minister Oh Yu-kyoung said at a news briefing. She said SK Bioscience is seeking approval from the World Health Organization for its shots, which would potentially open export opportunities.

China is trying to tackle its biggest coronavirus outbreak without a tool it could have adopted months ago: Western-developed mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

May 24, 2022

South Korea has eased most of its coronavirus restrictions after battling its Omicron surge earlier this year, but some experts say the country may see another rise in infections despite a high vaccination rate because of waning immunities and the possible emergence of new variants.

The country reported 10,463 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, its first daily increase of more than 10,000 in 20 days. Health Ministry official Son Young-rae said it was too early to tell whether the country was facing another surge after a months-long downward trend.