S.Korea authorises AstraZeneca COVID therapy Evusheld for vulnerable people

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FILE PHOTO: The company logo for pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is displayed on a screen on the floor at the NYSE in New York

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea on Thursday authorised AstraZeneca PLC's antibody-based therapy for preventing COVID-19 infection in people with a poor immune response, increasing its options as it works to ease the pandemic burden on the healthcare system.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety granted emergency use authorisation for 20,000 doses of Evusheld for individuals aged 12 years and older who have not been exposed to the coronavirus.

Nearly 87% of South Korea's 52 million people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 65% have also had a booster, government data showed. However, individuals with compromised immune systems or those with a history of severe adverse reaction to vaccines may need alternative prevention options.

Evusheld could be used for people whose immune systems are unlikely to mount adequate responses to COVID-19 vaccination or for whom vaccination is not recommended, the ministry said.

AstraZeneca in March said Evusheld retained its neutralising activity against the Omicron coronavirus variant in an independent study, and that it reduced the risk of symptomatic COVID-19 by 77% in trials.

While vaccines rely on an intact immune system to develop targeted antibodies and infection-fighting cells, Evusheld contains laboratory-made antibodies designed to linger in the body for months to contain the virus in case of infection.

The British drugmaker's therapy has already been authorised in the United States and its use has been recommended by the European Medicines Agency.

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Editing by Christopher Cushing)