Cheong Wa Dae confident of reaching herd immunity despite Moderna delay

Cheong Wa Dae confident of reaching herd immunity despite Moderna delay
President Moon Jae-in’s Chief Public Communications Officer Park Soo-hyun (Cheong Wa Dae)Cheong Wa Dae is confident of reaching herd immunity for COVID-19 by October as planned, despite delayed vaccine shipments from Moderna, President Moon Jae-in’s Chief Public Communications Officer Park Soo-hyun said Wednesday.

“We can reach the goal if the already secured vaccines are well controlled,” he said in a radio interview earlier in the day, referring to Moon’s Liberation Day speech on Sunday, when the president said the nation was on track to inoculating 70 percent of the population by October.

Because that speech was delivered just days after the US vaccine developer notified South Korea of another delay in its vaccine shipments, skepticism surrounds the government’s herd immunity pledges.

“The president’s promise cannot be made lightly,” Park said. “He made it sure that the goal can be reached and the government will make all-out efforts to do so.”

Moderna was set to send 8.5 million doses of its vaccine in August, but the amount was cut almost in half due to laboratory testing issues.

This is not the first time Moderna has failed to meet a deadline. The firm had planned to send 1.96 million doses by the end of July, but only 1.3 million doses arrived Aug. 7.

Of the 40 million doses Korea has secured in a contract with Moderna, only 2.45 million doses have been shipped so far.

In protest against the repeated delays, a Korean delegation consisting of four high-ranking officials visited Moderna’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, over the weekend. During the visit, Moderna promised to send the shipments as planned, according to health authorities.

Asked if that meant 94 percent of the supplies would arrive within the year, Park responded positively but declined to elaborate further, saying documentation from Moderna was expected by this weekend.

“When the promise is confirmed through a document, the government will make all-out efforts for the promise to be kept,” he added.

In the meantime, the government is upping pressure on Moderna to allocate Korea-made vaccines for domestic consumption first. Samsung Biologics plans to start manufacturing Moderna vaccines at its local facilities as early as later this month.

“The (approval) processes are complicated and time-consuming. We need to continue talks,” Park said.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)

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