March 26, 2021 12:58
A snag has hit the supply to Korea of Janssen's single-shot coronavirus vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson subsidiary recently told the Korean government that it can only provide enough doses for 500,000 people in the second quarter of this year.
That is a lot less than the agreed amount, but the company can barely meet demand in the U.S. The company instead promised to increase shipments from the third quarter.
The government has signed a contract with Janssen to deliver enough doses for 6 million people between the second and fourth quarters. Worse, Janssen told the Korean government it can start supplying even the reduced amount only in May, not in April as previously agreed.
The delay came after U.S. President Joe Biden's on March 2 pledged to secure 600 million doses of vaccines for all American adults by the end of May, two months earlier than originally planned.
As of Thursday, Korea ranked 106th in the world in rolling out vaccinations with just 1.38 percent of the population compared the global average of 6.27 percent. If the delays pile up, there are fears that Korea will achieve herd immunity even later than expected.
The supply of Moderna vaccines to Korea could also falter as the company has not enough inventory for the second quarter. Originally, Moderna proposed supplying enough vaccines for 20 million people from the third quarter, but President Moon Jae-in persuaded company's CEO late last year to move up the shipment to May and June. But due to Biden's demands, Moderna will also probably struggle to fulfill that pledge.
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday warned of economic damage caused by slow vaccination. "Asian countries that succeeded in containing COVID-19 have now fallen behind much of the West in the race toward herd immunity," it said.
"Without herd immunity, countries risk introducing new cases of COVID-19 if they loosen border controls and social-distancing restrictions. Retaining those measures, though, weighs on their economies by making it harder to attract investors, foreign workers, tourists and students," it wrote. "Korea is a particularly good example of the economic pitfalls ahead," the daily added.
The daily tally of new infections reached nearly 500 on Friday morning with 494, prompting heath authorities to extend the current lockdown for another two weeks until April 11.
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