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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 20)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:04 November 20, 2020

Securing COVID-19 vaccines
Thorough preparation needed to start inoculation

South Korea is seeking to secure more than 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as early as possible. The government plans to buy 10 million doses through the global vaccine supply platform, COVAX Facility, and the remaining 20 million through negotiations with vaccine makers. This move came after two U.S. companies ― Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. ― apparently succeeded in developing vaccines for the coronavirus.

The news about the development is raising hopes for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said their vaccine showed a 95 percent success rate with no serious side effects. Moderna also showed 94.5 percent effectiveness, according to its officials. The two firms are expected to obtain emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration within weeks.

If things go well, the drug makers can produce and supply vaccines as early as before Christmas. AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson Johnson are also on course to develop their own vaccines. We welcome these developments that can help the world defeat the pandemic which has now become resurgent in the U.S. and many other countries, including South Korea.

The ongoing race to develop vaccines is also triggering a competition among countries to secure sufficient doses of them as soon as possible. It was reported that Pfizer has already struck a deal to provide 600 million doses to the U.S., 300 million doses to the European Union, 120 million doses to Japan and 30 million doses to Britain. Moderna has also offered 500 million doses to the U.S., 56 million doses to Canada, 50 million doses to Japan and 5 million doses to Britain.

But, South Korea has not yet signed any deal to secure vaccines from the global pharmaceutical giants. This is raising concerns that the country lags behind other countries in the race to acquire a vaccine supply in advance. The Moon Jae-in administration should take the blame if it fails to get enough doses for the people in a timely and appropriate manner.

The country has so far been lauded for its quick response to the COVID-19 outbreak although it underwent a first and second wave of mass infections. Yet Korea is facing another challenge because a third wave of the virus is looming large. The number of new daily infections stayed above 300 for the second straight day Wednesday. The health authorities have again tightened social distancing rules to prevent the further spread of the virus.

Against this backdrop, a stable supply of vaccines holds the key to bringing COVID-19 under control. The government has set aside 170 billion won ($152 million) for possible advance payments for vaccines. However, the sum appears insufficient. Thus, it is necessary to increase the budget. Officials should make all-out efforts to hold successful negotiations with drug-makers such as Pfizer and Moderna to purchase their vaccines. They must also make thorough preparations to ensure safe vaccination procedures, and decide on who should be prioritized for immediate inoculation.

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