Korea secures more Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer
The government has signed a deal with Pfizer to import an additional 40 million vaccine doses to immunize 20 million people.
Health and Welfare Minister Kwon Deok-cheol could put in the additional preorders by holding two video negotiations with Pfizer officials on April 9 and 23, it said.
“While the vaccines initially secured are sufficient to achieve herd immunity, the additional purchases have laid the foundation to accelerate the timing of when we can reach herd immunity,” Kwon said. “We can now prepare for additional demands for booster shots to cope with the mutant virus and the expansion of the target age for vaccinations under the age of 18.”
The vaccine price was the same as the last contract, Kwon added.
With the government’s latest deal, Korea has secured Pfizer vaccines enough to inoculate 33 million people. The government signed a contract to receive vaccines for 10 million people in December last year and secured additional vaccines to inoculate three million people in February.
So far, Pfizer has delivered 875,000 doses, and health officials estimate that additional vaccines for 3.5 million people will arrive by June.
“The remaining vaccines for 29.5 million people will arrive sequentially from July,” the government’s vaccine task force said. “Pfizer has been supplying vaccines weekly since it first started supplying them to Korea on March 24.”
Pfizer has assured that it will supply the entire contracted amount this year, and the government does not expect that contracts with other countries will affect Korea’s supply and demand, it added.
The latest deal raised the total number of Covid-19 vaccine doses secured by the government to 99 million people, which is an amount that is 2.75 times more than the 36 million that the government requires to reach 70 percent herd immunity by November.
The vaccines secured by the government include those from five pharmaceutical companies –AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, and Novavax.
Of these, the amount confirmed to enter Korea by the end of June is for almost nine million people. The government plans to introduce vaccines from NovaVax, Modena, and Janssen vaccines in earnest from July and supply a total of 100 million doses by the end of September.
“Vaccines supply set until September is enough to inoculate over 50 million citizens, and if everything goes as planned, it will be possible to inoculate a total of 44 million people over the age of 18,” the task force said. “Therefore, conditions for early achievement of the goal of forming herd immunity by November have become possible.”
Regarding the plan to introduce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines, the task force said that it is necessary to verify the safety and effectiveness of other vaccines in addition to the previously secured vaccines.
“We are monitoring the status of international approvals, such as the European Union, and are prepared to verify the vaccine when they submit application approval,” the task force said.
Health authorities have vaccinated 2,266,888 people – 1,313,123 with the AstraZeneca vaccine and 953,765 with Pfizer’s vaccine. They confirmed 13,609 adverse cases, including 162 suspected anaphylaxis cases, 43 seizure cases, and 60 deaths.
The nation’s daily Covid-19 tally fell to 500 on Monday, backed by fewer testing over the weekend.
Last week, daily infections neared 800 as cluster infections, and untraceable cases grew amid increased social activities due to the warmer weather.
To tighten curbs on the spread of the virus, the government has designated this week as a special quarantine period, banning office dinners by government employees and expanding working from home and working half time or part of business hours in the public sector.
The greater Seoul area, home to half of the nation’s 52-million population, will remain under the Level 2 distancing scheme, the third-highest in the five-phase system, until May 2. The rest of the country is under Level 1.5, except for some municipalities that have adopted Level 2 measures. Private gatherings of five or more people are also banned nationwide.
However, if the current infection trend continues to increase, the government stressed that they might consider stricter rules on multi-use facilities and business operations and an additional ban on gatherings.
Among the 500 new patients confirmed by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KCDA) on Monday, 469 were local infections, increasing the cumulative caseload to 119,387 as of midnight Sunday. Imported infections decreased to 31 from 41 recorded in the previous day.
Four more people died of the Covid-19, pushing the death toll to 1,817 with a fatality rate of 1.52 percent. The number of fully recovered people in the country rose to 108,850, with 375 newly recovered patients. The country has tested 8,672,979 people since Jan. 3 last year.