South Korea is in the process of inoculating three-quarters of its 52m people against Covid-19 for the next three months as vaccine launches by East Asian governments pick up momentum after early delays.
Health officials in Seoul unveiled plans Thursday to expand their vaccination program to the general public after inoculating 13 million people, a quarter of the population, two weeks before the program.
The rise in vaccinations comes after Asian countries, which outperformed Europe and the United States in their initial responses to the coronavirus pandemic, fell backwards its Western counterparts this year to secure and deliver strikes.
East Asian struggles have been attributed to a shortage of local Covid vaccine producers and inertia on the part of policymakers following their first success suppression of the virus.
A strong rebound in export growth and signs of inflationary pressures have masked weaker home recovery across the region amid continued social alienation and restrictions on travel, tourism and mass events.
Société Générale analysts have described China’s lack of acceleration in domestic consumption in particular as “a major concern,” with the country’s still underperforming sales and services sectors and the export recovery imposed at moderate.
Seoul is in discussions with other governments to quickly ease travel restrictions as the vaccination vehicle grows.
“The decline in the services sector – travel, retail, restaurants and hotels – makes it difficult to create a positive cycle for the economy, despite strong exports,” said Park Chong-hoon, head of research at Standard Chartered in Seoul.
South Korea will also allow citizens to be vaccinated with several shots as part of a plan to navigate the supply shortage and reach its target of band immunity by November. That means about 760,000 people, including health workers who initially received the Oxford / AstraZeneca jabs, can receive their second dose with a BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine.
“Things seem to be going well as planned by the government, with little public resistance against vaccinations,” said Kim Tak, professor of infectious diseases at Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital.
South Korea’s vaccination rate is higher than that of neighboring Japan, despite Tokyo’s rush to inoculate citizens ahead of the July Olympics. While the two countries had just started their campaigns in April, the cumulative doses per 100 people in South Korea have jumped to more than 30 in recent days, compared to just over 20 in Japan.
China, which has also suffered initial delays, has administered more than 900m doses to its 1.4 billion population.
Jeong Eun-kyeoung, head of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said 80m doses arrived in South Korea in the third quarter of the year, including 10m doses in July.
“There is hope for a return to ordinary life. . . But we cannot prevent the community spread of the virus with the current vaccination rate, ”Jeong said.
To encourage vaccination, South Korea is introducing introductions such as allowing vaccinated people to go without masks in the open air and to be exempt from meeting restrictions of more than four people. Vaccination sites are also being extended to companies with their own medical facilities.
Local trust has been supported by a series of trade deals between South Korean biopharmaceutical groups and major foreign vaccine developers.
SK Bioscience is contracted to produce AstraZeneca jabs for both domestic use and export. He also signed a licensing agreement with Novavax to produce 40m doses for South Korea as well as a contract manufacturing contract for global supply.
Samsung Biologics, the country’s largest manufacturer of pharmaceutical contracts, plans to start production of Modern vaccines in the second half of the year for South Korea and the global market, excluding the United States. Another biotechnology company, GL Rapha, will produce doses of Sputnik V jab from Russia for global use.
More information from Sherry Fei Ju in Beijing
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