By Josh Smith
SEUL (Reuters) – South Korea will begin administering the first 117,000 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on February 27, a day after the country launches the first vaccines with AstraZeneca products, the prime minister announced on Sunday.
Plans require that about 10 million high-risk people, including health care workers and staff, and some residents of care facilities and nursing homes, be inoculated by July.
The first AstraZeneca vaccines are scheduled to be administered on Friday, with Pfizer shots set for the next day, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in remarks reported by the Yonhap news agency.
“On February 26, 117,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines will arrive in the country and the vaccines will be administered to the medical staff treating patients with coronavirus starting February 27,” Chung said at a government meeting, according to Yonhap.
Authorities have said they will not use the AstraZeneca vaccine in people age 65 and older until more efficacy data are available, reversing an earlier decision.
In addition to AstraZeneca and Pfizer, South Korea has also reached agreements with Moderna, Novavax Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and the global COVAX vaccine distribution scheme to supply their vaccines.
Chung announced last week that South Korea had reached additional agreements with Novavax Inc. on enough vaccines to cover 20 million people and with Pfizer to cover another 3 million, making the total supply sufficient to cover 79 million people, although South Korea has a population of 52 million
The government says its goal is to achieve herd immunity by November, although South Korea’s leading medical experts have said the timeline will be virtually impossible to achieve.
The Korea Agency for Disease Control and Prevention reported 416 more COVID-19 cases since midnight Saturday, bringing the total to 86,992.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)
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