By Choi Soo-hyang
SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Yonhap) -- The first batch of a coronavirus vaccine for U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) is expected to be shipped to South Korea as soon as it is approved for emergency use, Gen. Robert Abrams said Monday.
The USFK commander made the remark in an interview with the American Forces Network radio station, saying the vaccine to be used for overseas U.S. personnel is likely to be Moderna's, though the U.S. has begun distributing Pfizer's vaccine across the country.
"We expect that to happen anytime soon ... probably in the next week or so," Abrams said of emergency use authorization (EUA) for Moderna's vaccine. "So I think we'll see the vaccine, you know get shipped as soon as the EUA is approved."
Abrams said it could be "well into the new year" before USFK sees a COVID vaccine.
"But it is coming," he said.
The commander said it could take as long as until the upcoming spring for all of the USFK members to be vaccinated as the doses will be rolled out in stages. The first doses will go to USFK's medical personnel and first responders.
"The first priority when we finally get our first shipment, it'll be focused on health care, emergency services personnel and critical support, and then as the production line really kicks in, as more and more comes in there, there are various tiers that will come out of it," Abrams said.
While noting that getting the vaccination is voluntary, the commander said he "highly" encourages its members to get the vaccine, saying it is "pretty safe."
"Whenever it gets here, you know, I'm happy to step into the breach," the general said.
The remarks came as South Korea reported its largest daily caseload ever of 1,030 new coronavirus cases Sunday, setting yet another fresh high after reporting 950 cases the previous day.
Over the past few weeks, the country has reported hundreds of daily new cases due to locally transmitted cases from the greater Seoul area, which houses around half of the nation's 51 million population.
On Monday, USFK said 16 American individuals affiliated with the U.S. military tested positive for the new coronavirus upon arrival in South Korea over the past few weeks, bringing the total number of USFK-related coronavirus infections to 434.
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