SEOUL, Feb. 24 (Yonhap) -- Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said that the first shipment of new coronavirus vaccines in South Korea on Wednesday marks the beginning of the country's long-awaited return to everyday life prior to the pandemic.
"We begin the historic first vaccinations on Friday with vaccines that are shipped today. It will be the first step in finally returning to the everyday life we have long sought," Chung said during a daily interagency meeting on the coronavirus response held at the government office of North Gyeongsang Province in Andong, 270 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
South Korea plans to launch a public, free inoculation program with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca's vaccines on Friday. Shipments of the vaccines, manufactured in Andong by South Korean drugmaker SK Bioscience Co. under a partnership deal, start Wednesday.
Chung also stated that the government was in the process of thoroughly preparing for each and every step of the vaccination program, including procurement, logistics, retail and administration, in order for the public to be inoculated safely.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is deemed more convenient for mass inoculations as its storage temperature is 2 to 8 C, compared with the vaccine by Pfizer that requires ultra-cold chain storage.
According to health authorities, a total of 289,271 people, or 93.6 percent of the patients and people working at facilities including sanatoriums, nursing facilities and rehabilitation facilities, said they will receive the first shot of AstraZeneca's two full-dose regimen.
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