South Korea to begin using Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines this week

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South Korea will begin administering the first of 117,000 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on February 27, a day after the country begins its first vaccinations with AstraZeneca’s products, the prime minister announced on Sunday.

Plans call for about 10 million high-risk people, including health care workers and staffers and some residents of assisted care facilities and nursing homes, to be inoculated by July.

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The first AstraZeneca vaccines are scheduled to be administered on Friday, with Pfizer’s shots being deployed the next day, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in remarks reported by Yonhap news agency.

“On Feb. 26, 117,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines will arrive in the country and the vaccines will be administered to medical staff treating coronavirus patients starting on Feb. 27,” Chung told a government meeting, according to Yonhap.

The authorities have said they will not use AstraZeneca vaccine on people aged 65 and older until more efficacy data becomes available, reversing an earlier decision.

Aside from AstraZeneca and Pfizer, South Korea has also reached agreements with Moderna, Novavax Inc, Johnson & Johnson, and global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX, for the supply of their vaccines.

Chung announced last week that South Korea had struck additional deals with Novavax Inc for enough vaccines to cover 20 million people and with Pfizer to cover a further 3 million, making the total supply enough to cover 79 million people, though South Korea has a population of 52 million.

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The government says its goal is to reach herd immunity by November, though leading South Korean medical experts have said that timetable will be practically impossible to achieve.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 416 more COVID-19 cases as of midnight Saturday, raising the total to 86,992.

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