SEOUL – South Korea has arranged to buy coronavirus vaccines to 23 million more people, the prime minister said on Tuesday, a day after authorities said delays and efficiency problems meant fewer people would be vaccinated in the first quarter of the year.
The offers include Novavax vaccines for 20 million people and Pfizer products for 3 million, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in comments at a meeting sent.
“The government has been working to bring in adequate early supplies, but there is growing uncertainty about our vaccination plan in the first half due to production problems with global drug manufacturers and international competition to adopt more vaccines,” he said.
With a population of 52 million, South Korea had already secured enough doses for 56 million people from COVAX, Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson and is due to begin its first vaccination phase on 26 February.
On Monday, authorities said they would not use AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine on humans aged 65 and over, reversing an earlier decision and reducing initial vaccination targets due to delayed shipments from the global vaccine sharing system COVAX.
The country lowered its first-quarter target for how many people would be vaccinated from 1.3 million to less than 760,000.
The director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), Jeong Eun-kyeong, said the adjustments in the first quarter are not expected to affect the goal of achieving “herd immunity” by November, although some independent health experts have questioned the feasibility of the timeline.
The KDCA reported 457 more cases of coronavirus from midnight on Monday, bringing South Korea’s total to 84,325 with 1,534 deaths.
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