The defense ministry said that in preparation for the kick-off of South Korea’s vaccination program, the country has conducted its final government-wide drill for vaccine transportation.
The drill on Friday followed the one that was done at the Incheon International Airport earlier this month, which was joined by related agencies and simulated the transport of imported COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer.
The final drill, meanwhile, has centered on transportation handling of AstraZeneca’s vaccine which will be produced in the city of Andong, particularly at a SK Bioscience Co. Factory.
From the production site, participants rehearsed for its transport to the distribution center in Incheon, followed by its distribution to 25 local health centers nationwide.
The authorities have deployed the C-130 cargo plane of the Air Force, as well as its helicopters, to become completely ready for emergency situations.
The defense ministry said participants rehearsed how to deliver the vaccines to islands like Jeju and Ulleung.
“Basically, the ground transport will be used for their delivery from the factory to the distribution center. To send them to islands, either vessels, helicopters or military transport aircraft will be mobilized in accordance with weather conditions and other circumstances,” according to a ministry official.
A vaccine distribution task force was mobilized by the defense ministry last month, which, as suggested by its name, will be handling the transportation and distribution of the vaccines.
The task force will work with the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) and the National Police Agency, along with other entities.
“This drill was to simulate the whole procedure of the vaccine distribution plan by fully adhering to due rules,” the defense ministry stated. “Not only government agencies but civilian experts joined the drill to ensure perfection in the overall delivery system.”
The first inoculation in the country using vaccines from AstraZeneca is planned to set off by February 26. These vaccination drives will primarily benefit those South Koreans aged younger than 65 years.
Seventy-nine million people will be covered by vaccines through the deals the government has closed with the COVAX Facility project by the World Health Organization, along with other contracts with private pharmaceutical companies abroad.
On Thursday, President Moon Jae-in paid a visit to the manufacturer of syringes intended for COVID-19 vaccines. The company, Poonglim Pharmatech, intends to ramp up its syringe production to prevent insufficient supply once the vaccination program goes in full swing.
About 43.5 million people are targeted to get the vaccine this year — 2.2 million of whom belong to the priority groups like medical staff and the elderly.
The country aims to achieve herd immunity by November through vaccinating its 52 million people.