March 30, 2021 11:01
A shipment due Wednesday of AstraZeneca vaccines that the government was promised through the WHO's COVAX Facility has been delayed for three weeks. The shipment volume has also been slashed from 690,000 doses to 432,000 due to a global shortage.
Jeong Eun-kyeong, the chief of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said Monday the delay "reflects difficulties in international vaccine supplies."
Health authorities said AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in India for supply to poor countries have been held up, prompting COVAX to shift its distribution plans to ensure all participating countries receive shipments in the first half of the year. India temporarily halted shipments in order to inoculate more of its own people.
Jeong said COVAX would be able to distribute the remainder of the promised vaccines by May.
Instead, the government hopes to import enough Pfizer vaccines for 3 million people in April to June. Jeong said the government is still negotiating the import of Janssen, Moderna and Novavax vaccines that are supposed to be coming in during the second quarter.
The government has apparently asked the U.S. to send as much Janssen, Moderna and Novavax as it can in the second quarter in return for Korea sending more minimal-waste syringes.
Each AstraZeneca vial is supposed to contain 10 doses, but that can be stretched to 11 to 12 doses using a minimal-waste or "low dead space" (LDS) syringe. Each vial of Pfizer vaccine is supposed to contain six doses, but that can be stretched to seven.
Meanwhile, the daily tally of new infections stood at 447 on Tuesday morning.
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