No Vaccinations Expected for Months

  • By Kim Jin-myung, Yang Seung-joo

    December 21, 2020 12:46

    Prospects are becoming increasingly murky of a coronavirus vaccine becoming available to Koreans before the middle of next year.

    Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Sunday admitted that Pfizer, Janssen and Moderna vaccines will not become available here in the first quarter of 2021. So far the government has only signed a pre-purchase agreement with AstraZeneca.

    On a TV show on Sunday morning, Chung said, "Contracts are expected to be signed soon with those drugmakers, but we haven't received any promises of supplies in the first quarter."

    Earlier this month, the government belatedly said it will secure enough coronavirus vaccines for 44 million people, but the only pre-purchase agreement signed so far has been with AstraZeneca for 10 million doses, and even that deal does not specify an import date.

    In its dealings with Pfizer, Janssen and Moderna, Korea seems to be right at the back of the queue.

    Chung said the AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to become available "as early as February and no later than March." But he added, "The supply contract is premised on a quarterly basis and we have obtained a promise for supplies starting in the first quarter. The government wants to start vaccinations in February, but we have not received any promises of the date." That means inoculations could start even later if safety checks of the AstraZeneca vaccine take longer.

    Chung said the government is lagging behind because it "was not considering raising the dependence level of vaccines in July" -- when purchase negotiations began -- "domestic infections stood at only around 100 a day." In other words, the government believed the pandemic would go away of its own.

    In the U.S., the official in charge of vaccine acquisition apologized in public for a shortage of supplies, but vaccinations are on schedule. Pfizer's vaccine is already being administered, and Moderna's vaccine, which was the second to be approved, is being distributed.

    A total of 45 million Americans are to get their injections by the end of this year.

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