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Moon checks readiness for COVID-19 vaccination

President Moon Jae-in on Monday called for thorough readiness among government offices as the nation prepares to start COVID-19 vaccinations with the imminent arrival of the first batch of vaccines, possibly early next month.

“The coronavirus response is entering a new phase. If the past year was a time when we protected ourselves from the virus through social distancing measures, now is a time to fight the virus with vaccines and treatments,” Moon said before receiving a policy briefing from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency -- the three government offices responsible for the vaccination plans.

“In order to gain trust from the public, in particular, the top priority should be transparency, openness and democracy,” he added, stressing that the whole process of vaccination should be fully communicated with people. 

President Moon Jae-in enters a Cheong Wa Dae meeting room to receive a policy briefing from he Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Monday. (Cheong Wa Dae)
President Moon Jae-in enters a Cheong Wa Dae meeting room to receive a policy briefing from he Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Monday. (Cheong Wa Dae)

The annual briefing comes as the government, under the leadership of the disease prevention agency, is finalizing vaccine rollout plans set to be unveiled Thursday.

The nation has so far secured vaccines for 56 million people, sufficient to cover the entire population of over 50 million people, with the first batch for 50,000 people arriving early next month.

By boosting the speed of vaccine distribution, the government aims to achieve herd immunity by November, meaning that about 70 percent of the population or 36 million people are expected to acquire resistance to the infectious disease by that time.

During the briefing, KDCA chief Jeong Eun-kyeong, who oversees the whole process of vaccine production, distribution and storage, pledged to ensure preparedness across all related government offices.

The Health Ministry said it will further strengthen its testing and tracking capabilities, secure more hospital beds and health care workers and overhaul the current social distancing measures to maximize effectiveness while relieving public fatigue.

The drug agency said the approval process for vaccines and treatments will be drastically reduced to speed up their availability, while safety control will be heightened through a three-phase inspection system with top specialists.

The agency added that a total of 456.3 billion won ($413.9 million) will be newly injected into the development of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.

Regarding the widening income gap amid the prolonged fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, Moon also called for enhanced welfare measures, including jobless benefits and payouts and daycare services, to better protect more vulnerable households.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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