President Moon Jae-in in a file photo (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in dismissed criticism Monday that his government has fumbled its COVID-19 vaccine procurement policy, saying inoculation is expected to start as planned in February next year.
He cited concerns that South Korea might have not secured enough vaccines yet or that its people would take shots too late.
"That's not true," the president said in front of pool reporter and TV cameras at the outset of his weekly meeting with senior Cheong Wa Dae aides.
The government put an interagency support system into operation "several months earlier," and it has made all-out efforts for the supply of vaccines on the basis of experts' opinions, he added.
"We are proceeding (with the program) smoothly in accordance with our original policy," he stressed.
The government expects that it will be able to begin offering shots in February to those on the top of the priority list, including medical staff and workers at elderly care facilities, Moon added.
He said South Korea has "already secured enough volume" of vaccines and is pushing for the acquisition of additional doses in preparation for an emergency situation.
The nation's health authorities announced separately that they have completed signing contracts with three foreign pharmaceutical firms -- AstraZeneca, Janssen and Pfizer -- to obtain vaccines for a total of 36 million people. The government is nearing the conclusion of a contract with Moderna to buy doses for 10 million people.
Moon also reaffirmed full support for vaccine development by domestic drugmakers, which he said is a must-do in terms of "vaccine sovereignty."
In order to terminate the coronavirus so that the people can return to their normal lives, the trio of virus containment, vaccines and treatment is necessary, he pointed out.
On the ongoing wave of large-scale transmissions across the country, Moon said, "There's no royal road to virus control and prevention" and requested continued public cooperation and support.
He noted that 2021 will be his fifth year in office and vowed efforts for no blind spot in his leadership.
Moon's job approval ratings have markedly dropped to below 40 percent in recent weeks, multiple polls showed. He's widely expected to carry out a partial reshuffle soon of the Cabinet and Moon's key Cheong Wa Dae aides. (Yonhap)