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South Korea to begin administering Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

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South Korea to begin administering Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

South Korea COVID-19 Vaccination
Photo: Simon Shin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images, FILE

South Korea will begin administering the first of 117,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine today.

The government plans to have 10 million high-risk people, including healthcare workers and vulnerable residents, vaccinated by July and to reach herd immunity—thought to require the vaccination of approximately 70% of the population—by November 2021. Apart from the Pfizer vaccine, South Korea also has advance purchase agreements for doses from AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax Inc, and Johnson & Johnson, and it is eligible for an allocation of other supplies from the GAVI COVAX initiative.

There have been concerns about the impracticality of the vaccination timeline. Health experts point to vaccine hesitancy among the population and the spread of COVID-19 variants that appear more resistant to approved vaccines. There has also been concern that in the absence of a new tailored shot rollout to fight the variants, contact tracing may be put under additional strain. A lack of domestic manufacturing capabilities and the need to quickly administer vaccines will further increase pressure.

To address the challenges of the COVID-19 vaccine program, expect the government to accelerate the pace of vaccinations. Seoul may also consider establishing an oversight mechanism to control imported vaccines’ quality to ameliorate vaccine hesitancy.

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