AstraZeneca vaccines for 3.5 mln people to arrive in May-June

SEOUL-- South Korea will bring in another 7 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccines, enough for 3.5 million people, between May and June, health authorities said Monday.

AstraZeneca vaccines will make up about 60 percent of the country's rollout by the end of June, with a goal set to vaccinate 12 million out of the country's 52 million population.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) confirmed that AstraZeneca vaccines for 1 million people will arrive in the country in May and those for another 2.5 million people in June.

The vaccines will be the first two batches provided under a direct contract for 10 million people between the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant and the Seoul government, the KDCA said.

The country's health authorities have been struggling to alleviate safety concerns over AstraZeneca vaccines amid mounting concerns over a possible supply shortage.

The planned shipment also comes as the authorities have been speeding up the rollout of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to members of the general population.

Earlier, the Seoul government said it has secured enough vaccines to administer to 79 million people, more than its 52 million population.

A series of mishaps in securing COVID-19 vaccines as scheduled spawned concerns that the country's nationwide inoculation scheme may be delayed, which in turn may put its goal to create herd immunity by November in jeopardy.

Last week, the country was again taken aback by the news that the United States would pause the use of Johnson & Johnson's Janssen products over blood clotting, dealing a further blow to the country's vaccination campaign.

South Korea has planned to receive 6 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The bottles are scheduled to be provided in the third quarter.

Since the country started its vaccination program on Feb. 26, a total of 1,517,390 people, or 2.92 percent of the population, have been given COVID-19 vaccine shots, including 4,859 the previous day.

AstraZeneca's vaccine has been administered to 1,000,258 people, while 517,132 have received that of Pfizer.

The KDCA said 60,585 people have received two doses.

The country added 532 more COVID-19 cases Monday as daily cases fell back below 600 for the first time in six days, with the total caseload at 114,646, the KDCA said.

Earlier this month, South Korea resumed AstraZeneca vaccinations after a brief suspension over blood clot concerns, but people under 30 were excluded from the vaccination.

KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong said 640,000 people under 30 had been scheduled to receive AstraZeneca shots, but such shots will be administered to people aged between 60 and 64 in late May.

This week, South Korea started giving AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to health care workers and airline crews to speed up the vaccination drive.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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