South Korea will receive 7 million vaccine doses from Moderna over the next two weeks, officials said Sunday, a move to further boost the nation’s ongoing vaccination efforts.
“Moderna informed us Saturday that it would supply 7.01 million doses by the first week of September,” said Second Vice Health Minister Kang Do-tae in a press briefing.
About 1.01 million doses of the Moderna vaccine are scheduled to arrive at Incheon Airport on Monday. The remaining 6 million doses will be supplied in batches over the next weeks, with no specific schedule disclosed.
Including the latest vaccines, a total of 8.31 million doses of the Moderna vaccine will come to Korea by early September. That accounts for about 20 percent of the total of 40 million doses the government had signed a contract for early this year with the US firm.
Korea’s vaccination efforts were hampered by delayed shipments of Moderna’s vaccine due to a supply disruption.
Early this month, officials visited the Moderna headquarters to express strong regret on the delay and to discuss supply plans.
At the press briefing, Kang also denied news reports that Romania plans to donate vaccines to Korea.
A day earlier, the Romanian state-run news agency Agerpres reported that the country’s government had decided to donate 450,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to Korea on a humanitarian basis. The news agency said the batch was approaching its expiration date and that inoculation rates in Romania had slowed down in the summer.
Later the same day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a text message to reporters, “The current news that the Romanian government is giving away vaccines for free is not true, and discussions are underway between Korea and Romania in terms of vaccine swaps.”
Kang said that the expiration date is nearing is also wrong. “The validity period of the Moderna vaccine, which is under discussion, is later than November.”
Romania, which is struggling to convince its people to get vaccinated, donated 1.3 million doses of vaccines to Tunisia, Egypt, Albania and Vietnam this month. Last month it provided 100,000 doses to neighboring Moldova and Georgia.
The Korean government said it had built trust with Romania by providing equipment such as the diagnostic kits it sent in March last year when the pandemic broke out.
Authorities said more than 50 percent of the nation’s population had received their first COVID-19 shots as of Saturday.
As of Saturday at midnight, about 25.86 million people had received their first shots and 11.56 million people were fully vaccinated.
President Moon Jae-in said on Facebook the same day that the progress of the vaccination efforts was more rapid than expected.
“If this trend continues, 70 percent of the public will be able to complete their first vaccinations before Chuseok, and 50 percent will be fully vaccinated by the end of September,” he said. The Chuseok holiday, or Korean Thanksgiving, falls Sept. 20-22 this year.
The pace of the vaccination effort is expected to pick up Thursday, when the first shots are set to be administered to people aged 18-49.
Participation in the nation’s advance booking system for vaccinations began Aug. 8 for the age group, and the reservation rate stood at 63.9 percent.
By Shin Ji-hye (firstname.lastname@example.org