South Korean President Moon Jae-in faced growing public pressure on Wednesday over his plans to procure COVID-19 vaccine as the country struggled to keep a third wave of the pandemic and reported its second-highest daily compilation of cases.
Domestic media have paralyzed the government’s strategy to secure newly developed COVID-19 vaccines as too casual and too dependent on locally produced shoots that take more time than foreign alternatives.
According to a survey by the research company Realmeter, six out of ten South Koreans believe that urgency should be given priority over safety when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines and that vaccinations should start as soon as possible in view of the rapid increase in new cases.
South Korea had 1,092 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the national number to 52,550, with 739 deaths, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. The record with 1,097 cases was logged on Sunday.
Late on Tuesday, Moon’s office said a public inoculation program would not start too late. The government has previously said that vaccinations can begin as early as February.
Health authorities have expressed concern about the public’s perception that the vaccination program is a global competition and instead emphasize the importance of confirming the safety of the shots.
The United States and Britain, which have much higher cases and deaths, have no alternative to antivirus measures than the vaccines, Son Young-rae, a senior official at the Ministry of Health, told a briefing.
“These countries are somewhat unsuitable for us to take as teachers, and given the security screening process, we believe there is no reason for us to be the first or second country in the world to receive the vaccines,” said Son.
Meanwhile, the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine for US military personnel stationed in South Korea will arrive as early as Thursday, Yonhap News Agency said, citing a military source.
About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea.
“We can confirm that USFK was one of the overseas locations identified to receive the Moderna vaccine through the Department of Defense’s deliberate and phased distribution plan,” Colonel Lee Peters, a spokesman for U.S. forces, told Reuters. We can not confirm any other details. right now.”
South Korea’s aggressive tracking and testing early in the pandemic had made the country a global success story, but the recent increase in cases has confused efforts to curb the virus.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Wednesday that authorities have so far secured about 8,000 of the targeted 10,000 additional hospital beds for COVID-19 patients with the help of private hospitals.
Seoul and its surrounding areas have banned gatherings of more than four people from December 23 to January 3, and both restaurant owners and patrons can be fined up to 3 million won ($ 2,700) for violating the order.
The authorities have also closed all ski resorts and winter tourist sites in an attempt to stop the spread during the Christmas and New Year holidays.