Coronavirus Vaccinations Won't Start Until May

  • By Kim Sung-mo

    January 29, 2021 10:24

    The government on Thursday announced a coronavirus vaccination schedule that will be bitterly disappointing for many Koreans.

    While vaccinations are set to start next month for frontline medical workers and elderly patients in nursing homes, the wider population will not benefit until May, and herd immunity is unlikely to be achieved until November.

    The government said it hopes to inoculate 20 percent of Korea's 52 million people in the first half of this year and 33.3 million more people by November.

    Jeong Eun-kyeong, the chief of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said, "The aim of vaccinations is to minimize fatalities and stem the community spread of coronavirus." That pours cold water on any hopes that life can go back to normal any time soon.

    Jeong Eun-kyeong, the chief of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, speaks during a press conference in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province on Thursday. /Yonhap

    Vaccinations start next month targeting 800,000 frontline medical workers and patients in nursing homes, expanding in March to 500,000 workers at high-risk medical facilities and primary COVID-19 response personnel. Nine million senior citizens and other medical workers will be vaccinated in May.

    "Citizens will not be able to choose which type of vaccine to get and people who refuse to be inoculated will get pushed to the end of the line," the KDCA said.

    Children and pregnant women are not eligible for vaccination due to a lack of clinical research data.

    The government's target is vastly slower than Israel's, which has been progressing at the fastest rate in the world, but also lags behind the U.K., where vaccinations have already started, and other European countries that secured their vaccines in time and have more ambitious goals.

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