S. Korea to get scaled-back volume of AstraZeneca vaccines this week

SEOUL-- South Korea will get 432,000 doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccines later this week, a smaller amount than previously planned, health authorities here said Thursday, easing concerns that the country may face a delay in securing vaccines amid supply shortage globally.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said enough vaccines for 216,000 people, by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant and Oxford University, will arrive here on Saturday.

Previously, a delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines through the global COVAX scheme had been scheduled this week, but health authorities said the shipment has been pushed back to the third week of this month due to a production delay by the manufacturer. The amount of the delivery has been reduced from 690,000 doses.

The altered schedule comes amid woes that the country's inoculation campaign may face hurdles due to a delay in vaccine arrivals.

The KDCA also said another 7 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines under a direct deal with AstraZeneca will also arrive during the second quarter.

"It has been 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," KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong said.

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

Jeong also said the KDCA is considering extending the inter-dose interval for AstraZeneca products from the current 10 weeks to 12 weeks to address the potential glitch in the country's vaccination plan.

With the extension, the secured vaccines for the second shots can be used for others for their first shots.

The authorities have been speeding up the rollout of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to people aged 65 or older after the European Union's medicines regulator assessed that there is no link between the vaccines and blood clots found in some recipients.

South Korea aims to vaccinate 12 million people out of the country's 52 million population during the first half of this year, with an aim of achieving herd immunity by November.

Since Feb. 26, when the country initiated its vaccination program, a total of 876,573 people have been given COVID-19 vaccine shots, about 1.69 percent of the country's 52 million population, the KDCA said.

On Thursday, the country reported 551 more COVID-19 cases, rising to more than 500 for the second day, the KDCA said. The total virus caseload increased to 103,639.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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