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South Korea to begin COVID-19 vaccinations by March

South Korea said it has secured COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca, and distribution is expected to begin in 2021. File Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI
South Korea said it has secured COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca, and distribution is expected to begin in 2021. File Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 8 (UPI) -- South Korea is moving ahead with orders for COVID-19 vaccines that could reach as many as 44 million people, or close to 90 percent of the population.

Seoul's Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said Tuesday at a briefing that the government plans to procure the vaccines from different providers, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen, JoongAng Ilbo reported.

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AstraZeneca's vaccines already have been secured through a prepurchase contract and would cover 10 million South Koreans, Park said.

Other contracts are pending. The government said it plans to order enough vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna to cover another 10 million people each, and 4 million additional people will receive vaccines from Janssen.

Doses for an additional 10 million people will be secured through the COVAX Facility, managed by the World Health Organization.

"We had initially planned to secure vaccines for 30 million people, but decided to purchase more, as there is uncertainty over the success of the vaccine candidates and the competition is intense among countries for early purchases," Park said, according to Al Jazeera.

The vaccines from AstraZeneca will be distributed no later than March of next year, but the timing of other vaccinations were not confirmed Tuesday, according to the JoongAng.

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Kwon Jun-wook, deputy director of South Korea's Disease Control and Prevention, said in November that most COVID-19 vaccines would be supplied after the third quarter of 2021.

South Korea is preparing to import vaccines as the country is battling clusters of infections that are difficult to trace in Seoul. Parties and gatherings could be impeding disease prevention.

Yonhap reported Tuesday that Col. Michael F. Tremblay, commander of Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, issued an apology after a party on the U.S. military base.

Photos and videos uploaded to social media platforms showed people on base dancing with no masks, according to the report.

South Korea reported an additional 594 cases of the coronavirus Tuesday, with the total at 38,755 since the start of the pandemic.

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