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Military to complete first dose vaccination of troops over 30s this week

This photo, taken on Monday, shows service members at Seoul Station. (Yonhap)
This photo, taken on Monday, shows service members at Seoul Station. (Yonhap)

The military is expected to wrap up giving the first jabs of coronavirus vaccines to service members aged 30 and older this week, the defense ministry said Tuesday.

As of Monday, 93 percent of about 114,000 service members, who are eligible for the first round of vaccination and agreed to take it, have had their first jabs of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine since the campaign began late last month, according to the ministry.

"The vaccine administration will be completed this week," ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan said during a regular press briefing, adding that no serious side effects have been reported yet.

The administration of second jabs will begin around July, according to officials. 

The ministry is in talks with health authorities to inoculate around 450,000 troops aged 30 or younger with Pfizer vaccines starting next month.

Amid reports of virus infection among soldiers who were fully vaccinated, Boo said the military is handling such "breakthrough" cases in accordance with the health authorities' guidance.

On Sunday, a member of the Korean Augmentation to the US Army tested positive for the new coronavirus after receiving a Johnson & Johnson vaccine shot, marking the second known breakthrough case among service members.

Another KATUSA soldier was diagnosed with COVID-19 last month after receiving the single-dose J&J vaccine.

On Tuesday, the ministry said two Army soldiers have tested positive for the virus, raising the total number of infections reported among the military population to 839. 

A soldier based in Yanggu, about 175 kilometers northeast of Seoul, was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 while away from his base on vacation, and an officer in Goyang, north of the capital, was found to be infected after developing symptoms.

Defense Minister Suh Wook visited a border unit and checked their antivirus responses and readiness posture, according to the ministry. 

He also met draftees at an Army boot camp and checked their living conditions, after the military has come under fire for excessive quarantine rules and poor meals for troops in COVID-19 isolation.

Nationwide, South Korea reported 511 more COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total caseload to 128,283. (Yonhap)