April 27, 2021 11:39
President Moon Jae-in on Monday promised to speed up Korea's glacially slow coronavirus vaccination drive amid growing fears that even the modest target of achieving herd immunity by November is now a pipe dream.
"We have acquired the necessary variety of vaccines according to inoculation priority and herd immunity timing," Moon told senior Cheong Wa Dae officials. "We have a goal of reaching herd immunity faster."
The government on Sunday claimed a new contract with Pfizer has now secured enough vaccines for 99 million people.
Moon blamed the endless vaccination delays in Korea on other countries. "Infectious diseases such as COVID-19 require international solidarity and cooperation, but the reality is not like that. When their own situations became urgent, federations and international cooperation were neglected, and now countries are sealing their borders and restrict and hoard vaccines."
For good measure, he tried to deflect criticism of his government's failure to secure enough vaccines on time by urging people not to "politicize the issue" and "foment vague fears over vaccine supply and inoculations."
To achieve the November target, the government would have to provide first injections to 12 million people and second injections to 3.8 million by the end of June, and another 36 million first jabs by September so they can have their second jabs by November.
But health experts say that would require not only a massive acceleration of the laggard vaccination program but restoring confidence in the vaccines after fears of side effects.
The uptake for the AstraZeneca vaccine among police, firefighters and other frontline public servants who became eligible on Monday stands at only 58 percent.
The government says it is mulling "incentives" for people who get vaccinated at some point in the second half.
Meanwhile, the daily tally of new coronavirus infections stood at 512 as of Tuesday morning.
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