SEOUL (SOUTH KOREA) – With the country struggling to contain a third wave of the pandemic, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is up against a growing public pressure over his COVID-19 vaccine procurement plans.
Domestic media has condemned the government’s relaxed approach to securing newly developed COVID-19 vaccines. They also pointed out that Moon’s government is overly reliant on locally produced shots, which will take more time than overseas options.
As per a poll by research firm Realmeter, six in 10 South Koreans believe that when it comes to vaccines urgency should be prioritised over safety and that inoculations should begin as soon as possible given the sudden surge in new cases.
The President’s office said on Tuesday, public inoculation programme would “not begin too late”. The government has previously said vaccinations could start as early as February. South Korea had 1,092 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the national tally to 52,550, with 739 deaths, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. The record of 1,097 cases was logged on Sunday.
Though United States and the United Kingdom, suffer much higher cases and death rates, they have no alternative to anti-virus measures other than the vaccines, Son Young-rae, a senior official at the health ministry, told a briefing. He added, “These countries are somewhat inappropriate for us to take as teachers, and considering the process of safety checks, we believe there is no reason for us to be the world’s first or second country to receive the vaccines,”
With about 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines for them will arrive as early as Thursday, informed a source.
“Over the next few days, the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) will begin to receive and administer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to combat the COVID-19 virus to further protect the force and our community,” the USFK said in a statement.
Though during the initial stages of the pandemic South Korea was touted as a global success, due to their aggressive tracing and testing, the recent surge in cases has confounded efforts to contain the virus.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Wednesday that authorities have so far secured around 8,000 of a targeted 10,000 additional hospital beds for COVID-19 patients with the help of private hospitals.
In an effort to curb coronavirus spread Seoul and its surrounding areas have banned gatherings of more than four people from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3. Authorities have also shut down all ski resorts and winter tourist spots in a bid to stop the spread during the Christmas and New Year holidays.