(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 3-4, 6; ADDS photo)
By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will donate AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to Vietnam and Thailand, as it has enough doses to inoculate its own people and help other countries, the foreign ministry said Tuesday.
South Korea is set to ship 1.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Vietnam and 470,000 doses to Thailand later in the day, which will arrive in the nations on Wednesday, the ministry said.
It is the first time that South Korea is directly donating COVID-19 vaccines to foreign nations, except for financial support through the COVAX program.
Last month, President Moon Jae-in said during his meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart in New York that Seoul would donate to the Southeast Asian nation at least 1 million doses of vaccines.
The ministry said it decided to donate the vaccine to the key trading partners in the region to help protect Korean nationals living in the nations as well as local residents, as most of the nation's population has been inoculated.
"The government decided to donate the vaccines as the inoculations can go ahead without delays with the current stockpiles," the ministry said in a release. "The countries were selected after taking into consideration their requests, safety of Korean nationals living in the nations, foreign policy and the COVID-19 situation."
About 40 million people, or 77.9 percent of the population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines as of Tuesday, while 60 percent of them have been fully vaccinated, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
The ministry said it will consider providing additional support for other nations in need after taking consideration of the vaccine supply and the nation's vaccination rate.
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