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(LEAD) No. of COVID-19 inoculations reaches 2 mln in S. Korea as vaccinations speed up

National 19:39 April 22, 2021

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with new figures; RESTRUCTURES)
By Kim Han-joo

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) -- More than 2 million people have received COVID-19 vaccines in South Korea as of Thursday, as the country ramps up its coronavirus immunization drive by providing more shots and securing more doses.

An accumulated 2,034,236 people were administered with their first shots as of 6 p.m. Thursday as part of the nationwide campaign that kicked off on Feb. 26, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Health authorities said the milestone was achieved as the government increased the number of inoculation centers throughout the country. It also cited new vaccinations at 1,794 private medical facilities commissioned by the government.

The authorities aim to complete inoculation of 3 million people by the end of this month and 12 million people by end-June, with a goal of achieving herd immunity by November.

"We are preparing to operate some 14,000 vaccine centers through commissions in order for the people to safely and quickly receive inoculations," a government official said.

A person receives a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a hospital in southern Seoul on April 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

According to the KDCA, an average of 130,000 people have been inoculated every day recently, up highly from an average of 18,000 people during the first week of the vaccination campaign.

The accelerating inoculations come amid woes over a potential delay in vaccine supplies, which could take the nationwide inoculation scheme off schedule.

The KDCA earlier announced that it has secured enough coronavirus vaccines to inoculate 79 million people, yet the arrival schedule has only been finalized for AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines.

Adding to woes, safety controversies over the AstraZeneca vaccine have complicated the inoculation campaign as the products make up about 60 percent of the country's rollout for the first half of the year.

The country was again taken aback by the United States' decision to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson's Janssen products over blood clotting.

Vaccines by Pfizer Inc. arrive at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, west of Seoul, on April 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

The authorities have planned to receive 6 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The bottles are scheduled to be provided in the third quarter, yet the shipment schedule is not finalized.

To stave off a potential supply shortage, the Seoul government said earlier it is seeking a "vaccine swap" agreement with the United States, but such a deal may not happen at least for the time being after a U.S. State Department spokesman said his country is currently focused on vaccinating Americans.

On Wednesday, President Moon Jae-in also ordered his aides to review the possibility of introducing Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.

On Thursday, the country reported 735 more COVID-19 cases, the highest since Jan. 7 when the country reported 869 cases, the KDCA said. The total caseload was increased to 116,661.

khj@yna.co.kr
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