SEOUL, June 10 (Yonhap) — South Korea has begun preparation to secure more vaccines for next year as the COVID-19 pandemic here is expected to continue even after achieving much-awaited herd immunity this year, a ranking health official said Thursday.
The country has already secured enough vaccines to inoculate some 100 million people in a country of 52 million. The vaccines are made by five pharmaceutical firms — AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, Moderna and Novavax.
Over 10 million of the population have also received their first shots, making the country’s goal to get about 14 million vaccinated by the end of this month attainable. By November, the country aims to create herd immunity.
“Experts say the COVID-19 outbreak will not end immediately and will continue for some time, and numerous variants are expected to proliferate,” Vice Health Minister Kang Do-tae said. “The government is thoroughly preparing to secure vaccine bottles for next year.”
Kang said there is not enough study on how long antibodies after vaccination will work. Some health experts claim so-called booster shots may be needed to create more powerful immunization against the new coronavirus.
The government will consider various factors, such as safety and efficacy of each vaccine, as well as the latest study on efficacy against variants, Kang said.
The government has vowed to provide all available support to develop homegrown vaccines to secure vaccine sovereignty, bracing for a protracted COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have not yet achieved visible results in developing new treatment materials, yet the government will continue to support both vaccines and treatment,” Kang said.
On Thursday, the country reported 611 more COVID-19 cases, staying over 600 for the second straight day. The total caseload was increased to 146,303.