S.Korea COVID-19 vaccine rollout grinds to halt as new cases spike
SEOUL, July 13 - South Korea's rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations to people aged 55-59 has stuttered to a week-long halt after a spike in new cases sparked a rush for shots, booking up available supplies and crashing the official government reservation website.
The halt in vaccination appointments for people in the upper 50s age bracket came late on Monday, the first day that inoculation bookings were opened to under-60s. It came as daily infections, featuring the highly contagious Delta variant, came in at 1,150, a seventh straight day of more than 1,000 cases - the country's worst coronavirus outbreak so far.
While South Korea is ahead of its schedule in vaccination target, the pace has slowed sharply in recent weeks to around 30,000 doses a day from a peak of 850,000 earlier, as it finalises shipment schedules to begin Moderna (MRNA.O) COVID-19 inoculations for people in their 50s. read more
"Due to strong demand, 1.85 million Moderna doses were fully booked and reservations for those who couldn't sign up will resume on July 19," the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said in a statement on Tuesday. A total of around 3.52 million people in the 55-59 age group were eligible to sign up, leaving 1.67 million still to reserve shots.
Just about 11.6% of the country's 52 million population has completed vaccination, including receiving both shots for products requiring two doses, while 30.4% have received one dose, according to government data.
South Korea expects to receive at least another 9 million doses this month, but the government hasn't released the exact timeline, citing a non-disclosure agreement with the vaccine makers.
Health authorities sought to reassure the public on Tuesday that enough vaccine supply will be secured in August for the 55-59 age group who couldn't book on Monday and for other people in their 50s, a KDCA official told a briefing.
"We deeply apologise for failing to notify in advance of the possibility of early closure," the official said.