By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) - Drugmaker Pfizer Inc has filed an application seeking approval of its coronavirus vaccines to be used in South Korea as the country gears up to begin inoculations next month, authorities said on Monday.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it aims to reach a decision within 40 days after cutting its previous deliberation period of up to 180 days to fast-track the approval and speed up the vaccination process.
"Pfizer submitted the request today for its vaccines produced in Belgium," the ministry said in a statement.
"We will thoroughly review their safety and effectiveness in cooperation with professional examiners and outside experts so that our people can access safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines."
South Korea has said its first batch of vaccines consisting of 100,000 doses of Pfizer products for 50,000 people could arrive before the Lunar New Year holidays, which begin on Feb. 11, via global distribution scheme COVAX.
Authorities have started setting up vaccination centres, designating some 250 indoor gyms and theatres nationwide, with the goal of vaccinating up to 70% of its 52 million population until September.
The country has secured 106 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from COVAX, Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, and is also in talks to buy 40 million doses of products from Novavax.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, editing by Louise Heavens)