SEOUL, Dec. 5 (Yonhap) -- Lee Nak-yon, chief of the ruling Democratic Party, on Saturday pledged efforts to expedite the approval of coronavirus vaccines, as the country is struggling with new spikes in COVID-19 cases.
"We will try to advance the approval of the use of COVID-19 vaccines as much as possible if safety is guaranteed," Lee said during a visit to SK Bioscience Co. in the southeastern city of Andong.
The company signed an agreement with AstraZeneca Plc. in July to produce the British-Swedish bio giant's COVID-19 vaccine.
The former prime minister noted development of COVID-19 treatments is under way in the country, and applications may be filed for conditional endorsement of use within the year.
"But vaccines require a higher level of safety than treatments, and there are also issues regarding not only effects but storage, distribution and price," he said during a meeting with company officials.
Health officials said Thursday the government has recently agreed with AstraZeneca Plc. to purchase its coronavirus shot.
The country has reportedly been in negotiations to buy five vaccine candidates, developed by AstraZeneca, the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. The government is expected to announce the details of the negotiations next week.
The new coronavirus has infected 36,915 South Koreans and killed 540 as of Saturday.