SEOUL, May 2 (Yonhap) — South Korea may soon face a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines as less than 10 percent of the country’s AstraZeneca vaccine doses are left, the health authority said Sunday, raising concerns over delays in the nation’s immunization schedule.
The nation has secured 2 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses so far, and 1.82 million have received their first jab of the two-shot regimen as of Sunday, the COVID-19 vaccination management task force said.
There are only 166,716 shots left, or 8.8 percent of the total. They could be administered to about 200,000 people if low dead space (LDS) syringes, which are designed to maximize the number of recipients, are used.
Considering over 100,000 people have been inoculated a day over the past few weeks, the leftover doses are expected to run out in less than two days unless additional bottles are delivered within several days.
The health authority earlier said it will secure 8.67 million additional doses from AstraZeneca and via the World Health Organization’s global vaccine COVAX Facility project by June, but it has not yet unveiled a detailed schedule.
The vaccination coordination team last month recommended people receive the second jab of AstraZeneca’s vaccine within 11-12 weeks of the first one, shorter than the 8-12 weeks it previously advised, to raise its efficacy and in consideration of the vaccine supply.
As health officials began administering AstraZeneca’s vaccine on Feb. 26, those who have received the first shot will be required to receive the second jab beginning May 14, which could complicate the vaccination schedule.
The country aims to vaccinate 12 million people by the end of June in a bid to achieve herd immunity by November.
A total of 3.35 million people have received at least their first vaccine shots since the country started its vaccination program on Feb. 26, accounting for 6.6 percent of the total population, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been given to 1.82 million people, while 1.56 million have received that of Pfizer, the KDCA said.