South Korea will carry out COVID-19 vaccinations in August for people between the ages of 18 and 49 as part of its efforts to achieve herd immunity by November.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency announced Friday that the country would make vaccinations available to 17.8 million people aged between 18 and 49 in August and September, with the aim of administering first shots to a total of at least 36 million people by the end of September.
Those whose occupations involve frequent contact with children and those who serve in the public transportation, logistics and sanitation sectors will be the first in line, and can be inoculated as early as Aug. 17. Inoculations for the rest of the age group will start Aug. 26.
Reservations will be made available on separate dates for people whose birth dates end in different numbers. The system was designed to minimize traffic overflow and improve the overall system with a focus on convenience and fairness, authorities said.
The government will run its reservation system Aug. 9-18 based on the guidelines. Those whose birth dates end in 9 can reserve appointments Aug. 9, and those with birth dates ending in 8 can reserve theirs Aug. 18.
The system will be open from 8 p.m. each day until 6 p.m. the following day, and people who miss their chance can get another turn Aug. 19 to Sept. 17.
People aged 18-49 will receive either the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine and will be able to choose what time they get the shot and at which vaccination center.
The latest announcement also mentioned that anyone in Korea who has yet to get a shot will have more opportunities to do so.
People aged 18-49 who have disabilities will take priority for vaccine access. Unregistered foreigners and homeless people, regardless of age, can reserve their shots by physically visiting nearby vaccination centers.
Patients and caregivers at medical institutions will be able to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine by August or September, depending on demand.
Those who must engage in frequent, essential international maritime travel can apply for vaccination by registering with nearby state-run health clinics.
Korea is at the moment carrying out inoculation efforts for those aged between 55 and 59 in line with a vaccination plan for the third and fourth quarters of 2021.
First shots were expected to be administered by Friday to 640,000 high school seniors and staff members, a precaution to ensure a safe college entrance exam later this year.
Other applicants for the annual college entrance exam, including high school graduates, are to receive the Pfizer vaccine Aug. 10-14.
Yet uncertainties remain as to whether the plan can be executed in a timely manner as the country is experiencing problems securing enough COVID-19 vaccine. As of Wednesday’s end, the country had 6.53 million doses left in stock.
Around 4.55 million of those doses are from Pfizer, 1.36 million are from AstraZeneca and 621,300 are from Moderna.
Health authorities plan to bring in 28.6 million more doses in August and another 42 million in September.
While the third-quarter vaccination efforts are underway, it is uncertain how long supplies will last, with the authorities delaying the use of Moderna’s vaccine from late July to August. Whether the Novavax vaccine will come as planned within the third quarter also remains unclear, as the product has not yet received official approval.
As of Thursday’s end, a total of 18.72 million people, or 36.5 percent of Korea’s population, had received their first COVID-19 shots and 7.06 million were fully vaccinated.
The success of Korea’s vaccination plan remains a critical objective if the country is to overcome its ongoing fourth wave of COVID-19.
The country on Friday reported 1,710 new COVID-19 cases, 1,662 of them locally transmitted and the rest imported from overseas, raising the total number to date to 196,806.
The daily tally of new cases has stayed above the 1,000 mark since July 7, largely the result of a fast resurgence in the Greater Seoul area -- Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province. Health officials believe it could increase as the fourth wave is still on an upward trend.
By Ko Jun-tae (firstname.lastname@example.org