South Korean COVID-19 Vaccine in Late-Stage Test Against AstraZeneca Shot

By Pushkala Aripaka

September 01, 2021

(Reuters) - South Korea's SK Bioscience and Britain's GSK said on Tuesday the drugmakers had begun a late-stage trial of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate against AstraZeneca's approved shot, the second study of its kind globally.

The AstraZeneca vaccine will take the place of a placebo in the trial, which will enroll about 4,000 candidates worldwide. It will test SK's candidate, GBP510, in combination with GSK's vaccine booster after positive early-stage data and a greenlight from South Korea earlier this month.

Shots from Pfizer, Moderna, J&J and AstraZeneca have been approved for use in South Korea. However, its inoculation campaign has been dogged by vaccine shortages and shipment delays amid a surging fourth wave of infections.

A potential success of the SK vaccine, the country's first domestic candidate, would help cut reliance on Western shots.

"While many countries have made good progress with vaccination, there remains a need for accessible and affordable COVID-19 vaccines to ensure equitable access and to protect people across the world," said GSK Chief Global Health Officer, Thomas Breuer.

The GSK-SK vaccine, if approved, would be supplied worldwide through the World Health Organization-led COVAX vaccine sharing programme, the companies said, adding that results from the study were expected in the first half next year.

Researchers in some countries may not be able give a placebo shot to people where an effective vaccine is widely available for ethical reasons. France's Valneva is also conducting a late-stage trial against AstraZeneca's shot.

The vaccine by SK, also a contract manufacturer for AstraZeneca and Novavax, is a coronavirus protein-based vaccine, while AstraZeneca's shot uses a modified version of an adenovirus to deliver immunity-building instructions.

British drugmaker GSK, the world's largest vaccine maker by sales, has focused on supplying its adjuvant, or booster, to developers rather than make its own shot in the first leg of the vaccine race.

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