South Korea’s already slow vaccination rollout may face a further delay with Moderna, from which Seoul purchased 40 million COVID-19 vaccines -- experiencing production issues.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Tuesday, “Moderna has informed us that it is inevitable to adjust the supply schedule due to production setbacks.”
He added, “We are currently discussing with Moderna over the specific and definitive volume and date for vaccines in the July and August period.”
Kim promised to announce a renewed vaccination plan soon on how to achieve herd immunity by November, which was promised to the public. Currently, 13.5 percent of the nation’s total population have been fully vaccinated.
Early this year, the government signed a contract with Moderna to purchase 40 million vaccines for 20 million people. It then said those aged 50 to 59, whose inoculations began Monday, would get only Moderna shots.
However, over the past two months, only about 1.15 million Moderna vaccines have come to Korea. The government hurriedly changed its plan for people in the age groups. Under the changed plan last week, Pfizer vaccines will be used in the Greater Seoul region and Moderna vaccines will be used in other areas of the country.
If the supply of Moderna vaccines continues to be disrupted and people in their 50s continue to use Pfizer vaccines set aside for other groups, the nation’s vaccination plan in the second half of the year will have to be adjusted, pushing back the vaccination schedule for 17 million people aged 18 to 49.
The government will announce Friday its August vaccination plan, including those in their 40s or younger who have not yet been vaccinated against coronavirus.
Amid vaccination efforts underway, the coronavirus continues to rage throughout the country.
As of Monday at midnight, the number of new daily confirmed cases for the day reached 1,365, bringing the total to 191,531.
Of the newly confirmed cases, 1,276 were locally transmitted, with 771 from Greater Seoul and 505 outside the area.
As the number of confirmed cases outside the capital region has continued to hover around 500 for a week, the government has toughened restrictions nationwide. The second-highest Level 3 social distancing rules are being enforced from Tuesday until Aug. 8 outside Greater Seoul.
Under the Level 3 rules, restaurants and cafes can only stay open until 10 p.m., and only takeout and delivery are allowed after that. Entertainment facilities, bars, karaoke venues and swimming pools will be closed after 10 p.m.
“We must make meaningful changes within two weeks,” Prime Minister Kim said. “If the quarantine situation is judged to be severe, each local government should proactively implement drastic quarantine measures, such as banning gatherings and limiting business hours.”
Over the past 20 days, more than 8,200 violations in terms of gatherings and business hours have been reported in the government’s joint special inspection, Kim said.
The prime minister also urged public officials to make special efforts to prevent violations of quarantine rules, saying a series of violations of quarantine rules, such as work dinners, have been reported recently.
By Shin Ji-hye (email@example.com