December 09, 2020 11:11
The government said Tuesday that it has secured coronavirus vaccines for 44 million people and will bring them into the country in stages starting in February next year.
Orders have been placed with AstraZeneca for 10 million doses, while contracts are expected to be signed with Pfizer and Moderna for another 10 million each and Janssen for 4 million, Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo told reporters.
The government plans to secure another 10 million doses through the COVAX Facility, a global risk-sharing mechanism aimed at securing vaccines for equitable distribution.
AstraZeneca recently started an additional trial following concerns over dosing regimens, meaning that the supply of the vaccine could be delayed.
But Park said all of them would be delivered "by the end of next year." He did not say when vaccinations will begin citing "concerns over their safety and efficacy."
Vaccines will be given first to 36 million priority recipients like the elderly, medical workers and soldiers. Under-18s are not included as no clinical trials have been conducted in that age group. The remaining eight million doses will be available for commercial purchase.
The U.K., Germany and Japan by contrast have decided to offer free vaccinations to all citizens.
"There are chances that patients prefer a certain drug as there are diverse types of vaccines with a wide range of prices," Park said. "After talks with health officials, we came up with an idea of leaving some of them for purchase which would help control the distribution of vaccines."
The government is expected to take care of any liability claims caused by unexpected side effects.
The government is also considering sending free vaccines to North Korea. A Unification Ministry source said, "A consensus has formed within the government that cooperation is needed to continue to cross-border exchanges in the field of public health." The ministry said there have not been any talks so far with health authorities over sending them to the North.
Meanwhile, Korea reported 686 new cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday morning, the largest daily increase since the end of February.
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