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UPDATE 2-U.S. vaccine makers agree to produce more COVID-19 vaccines in South Korea

(Recasts story, adds background)

May 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. drugmakers Moderna Inc and Novavax Inc on Saturday entered into a deal with the South Korean government to manufacture their COVID-19 vaccines, as the country has been under pressure to secure more and faster deliveries of U.S.-made vaccines.

The agreements came a day after U.S. President Joe Biden said that he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in had agreed on a comprehensive partnership on COVID-19 vaccines and that the United States would provide vaccinations for 550,000 South Korean soldiers.

Moon, who is under pressure over the COVID-19 pandemic, had also said that a vaccine partnership would combine U.S. expertise and Korean production capacity.

Moderna, whose shot was granted approval in South Korea on Friday, said on Saturday its vaccine will be manufactured by Samsung Biologics Co Ltd and that it intends to supply these vaccines to markets outside the United States starting in the third quarter of 2021.

South Korea has secured access to 40 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, it added.

“We will continue to explore options for establishing potential local manufacturing opportunities in South Korea,” Moderna’s Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel said in a press release.

Novavax also on Saturday reaffirmed its partnership with South Korean firm SK bioscience Co Ltd to expand its production of vaccines, including the U.S. drug developer’s protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

In February, Novavax had entered into a license agreement with the South Korea manufacturer to produce 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for the country.

Moderna and Novavax announced their deals in separate press releases, saying the memoranda of understanding were signed by respective company executives and government representatives.

Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Andrea Ricci

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