One million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are being sent from the UK to South Korea as part of a swap deal.
South Korea will return the same “overall volume of doses” before the end of the year, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
The initiative will help South Korea hit its target of administering a second dose to 70% of its population by the end of October, the DHSC said. The first batch of doses is due to be shipped within weeks.
Boris Johnson held talks with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, at the UN general assembly on Monday. South Korea is in the middle of its worst wave of infections but has kept the number of severely ill cases under control through steadily rising vaccination rates.
The arrangement will “mutually support the rollout of the lifesaving vaccine in each nation”, a UK government source said.
It follows the announcement this month of a similar swap deal between the UK and Australia. Four million doses of the Pfizer jab are being sent from the UK to Australia as part of that deal.
“By working closely with our friends in South Korea, this vaccine swap will maximise their rollout speed without having an impact on the UK’s vaccine programme,” said Sajid Javid, the health secretary.
In the UK, more than 48 million people – 89% of over-16s – have had a first vaccine dose and more than 44 million – 81% of over-16s – have had two doses.
Javid said there would be no impact on the UK’s Covid vaccine booster programme or on supplies to the Covax vaccine sharing scheme.
“Separately, we continue to deliver on our commitment to donate 100m doses to nations around the world by June 2022 to ensure as many people across the world are as safe from Covid-19 as possible,” he said.
The UK has donated 10.3m Covid vaccines to other nations, including 6.2m to vulnerable nations through Covax, exceeding a target of providing 5m by September.
The Covax doses were a share of the 100m vaccines that Johnson pledged the UK would share over the following year at June’s G7 in Cornwall, with 30m due to be sent by the end of the year.
Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said: “The UK is playing a leading role in the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic, donating 100m vaccine doses across the world and have committed £548m to Covax.
“The Republic of Korea is a strategic partner for the UK and the sharing of 1m vaccines benefits both countries as we help build resistance against Covid-19 and save lives.”