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By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military plans to start giving extra COVID-19 vaccine jabs to troops in late December and is considering the booster shot program for overseas contingents, defense ministry officials said Monday, amid growing concerns about the omicron variant.
Boo Seung-chan, the ministry's spokesperson, said fully vaccinated troops will start receiving extra jabs in end-December, slightly earlier than the initial plan to start the extra shot scheme in January.
The defense ministry is also looking into various possible ways to administer booster shots to overseas South Korean troops, including vaccinating them at U.N. facilities, Boo said, amid lingering concerns over potential outbreaks among them.
Other measures under consideration include shipping vaccines from South Korea to the troops deployed to overseas missions where vaccines are not readily available, ministry officials said.
The military is also mulling giving additional shots to overseas troops after they return to South Korea, if they are posted to regions where medical infrastructure is not robust enough to handle potential post-vaccination side effects.
The military has been paying particular attention to the overseas contingents as it came under fire when many troops of the anti-piracy Cheonghae unit operating in waters off Africa were diagnosed with COVID-19 and airlifted home in July.
Despite the high infection tally in South Korea, the military plans to maintain current guidelines on vacations and off-base trips for its troops for the time being until health authorities issue new rules, Boo said.
South Korea's new coronavirus cases stayed below 4,000 for the second straight day Monday, with the number of critically ill patients at a worrisome level.
On Monday, the military reported 13 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the total caseload among its personnel to 2,305.
Among the new cases, three Army conscripts stationed in Seoul tested positive after one of them contracted the virus during a vacation.
A civilian employee of the Air Force based in Osan, 55 kilometers south of Seoul, tested positive while in self-quarantine.
An Army officer stationed in Yangju, north of Seoul, contracted the virus after a family member was infected.
Five other military personnel tested positive during and after their vacations.
Of the cumulative cases in the military, 146 patients are still under treatment.
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