When Will COVID-19 Vaccines Become Available in Asia?


    14 December 2020

    Testing results have shown that experimental vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca are safe and effective in preventing coronavirus infection.

    Countries, including Britain, Canada, the United States and the European Union, have approved or expected to approve these vaccines for emergency use.

    In Asia, several countries have also started their own review process and signed agreements for a supply of the shots.

    FILE - A man works in a laboratory of a Chinese vaccine maker, developing an experimental coronavirus disease vaccine, in Beijing, China, Sept. 24, 2020.
    FILE - A man works in a laboratory of a Chinese vaccine maker, developing an experimental coronavirus disease vaccine, in Beijing, China, Sept. 24, 2020.

    Australia

    In Australia, the government has agreed to buy 140 million doses including 53.8 million from AstraZeneca and 10 million from Pfizer. The country also expects to get 51 million from Novavax and 25.5 million through COVAX, a vaccine program run by the World Health Organization (WHO).

    The country expects to receive 3.8 million shots of AstraZeneca's vaccine early in 2021. And it hopes to begin its vaccination program in March.

    China

    China's government has already vaccinated a million people under emergency use with three different local vaccines. The experimental shots are developed by Sinovac Biotech and state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).

    The government does not have supply agreements with Western drug makers. But the drug-makers have partnered with private companies to supply the shots in China.

    AstraZeneca is working with Chinese partner Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products to make at least 1 million shots yearly starting at the end of 2020. The companies are hoping for approval in China by the middle of 2021.

    Chinese company Fosun Pharmaceutical Group is working with Pfizer and BioNTech.

    Tibet Rhodiola Pharmaceutical Holding, another Chinese drug maker, is testing Russian vaccine candidate Sputnik V.

    Japan

    Japan has agreements to buy 120 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech in the first six months of 2021. It will also buy 120 million from AstraZeneca, which will ship the first 30 million shots by March 2021.

    In addition, Japan has a deal for 250 million shots from Novavax and is in talks with American company Johnson & Johnson.

    Experts said vaccine makers will need to conduct more tests in Japan before seeking approval for emergency use.

    South Korea

    South Korea has agreements to buy 20 million doses each from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna. It also has a deal for 4 million from Johnson & Johnson, enough to cover up to 34 million people.

    South Korea is looking for additional shots through the WHO's COVAX program. Vaccination is likely to start after March of 2021 to give health officials more time to observe possible side effects.

    India

    The head of the Serum Institute of India, which makes the AstraZeneca vaccine, said on November 23 that it will seek emergency use by the end of 2020. The drug maker plans to seek full approval for the shots in February or March of 2021.

    India expects to launch a government-backed vaccine in February and is testing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.

    Taiwan(China)

    Taiwan(China) aims to get about 15 million doses through COVAX to begin its vaccination program. The territory plans to buy another 15 million doses from other drug-makers.

    The government has said it hopes to begin vaccinations between January and March of 2021.

    Malaysia

    Malaysia has agreed to buy 12.8 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. It is the first country in Asia to announce a deal with the U.S. drug maker. Other Southeast Asian countries have expressed worries about the extremely-cold temperature required to store and transport Pfizer's vaccine.

    Malaysia will get its first 1 million doses between January and March of 2021.

    The Philippines

    The Philippines announced an agreement on November 27 for 2.6 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and may buy another million shots. Those shots will only cover about 1 percent of the country's 108 million people.

    It is also seeking 20 million to 50 million doses from Sinovac, the Chinese company, and is in talks with others, including Pfizer.

    Indonesia

    Indonesia is testing China's Sinovac vaccine. It plans to vaccinate the country's health workers and other high-risk groups in January 2021.

    The most populous Southeast Asian country has agreed to buy 125 million shots from Sinovac and 30 million from Novavax. It is also in talks with AstraZeneca and Pfizer to buy 50 million doses from each. And it expects to get 16 million more through the COVAX program.

    Vietnam

    A Vietnamese government official said its agreement with COVAX would cover only 20 percent of the population. The country is looking at vaccines from Russia and other countries to meet demands.

    Bangladesh

    Bangladesh signed an agreement with India's Serum Institute to buy 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. It also expects to receive 68 million doses at a lower cost through the COVAX program, a senior health ministry official said.

    I'm Jonathan Evans.

    And I'm Susan Shand.

    Reuters News Agency reported on this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    dose – n. the amount of medication that is given at one time

    conduct – v. to undertake

    serum – n. a medication that is taken to counteract an illness or poison

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