Endless self-praiseOn Tuesday, when Britain became the first country to launch an immunization program for Covid-19, the Korean government vowed to incrementally bring home vaccines to cover 44 million people from the first quarter of next year. Even taking into account the differences in the Covid-19 conditions and response strategies between the two countries, the sight underscores how much Korean authorities have lagged on the administering of vaccines.
Outgoing Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo, who came under fire for slow quarantine responses, admitted that the capital region was in a “warlike state over Covid-19.” Still, the liberal administration appears to be in no hurry.
The United States will be the next to start immunization. Despite a failure to contain a third wave of the novel virus, Korean authorities have stayed relaxed in devising vaccine programs. The people, weary and pained by a protracted virus crisis, are beginning to lose patience with a critical dearth of urgency from authorities. People are forced to enter a new year without hope for an imminent arrival of cure or a vaccine.
The Moon Jae-in administration promises vaccines will be reserved for 44 million people under the Covax Facility, a global vaccine procurement program, and through individual contracts with drug makers. But it remains to be seen if they will arrive in time. About 90 percent of the Pfizer vaccines reported to be available for 50 million doses by the year-end and 1.3 billion doses for next year have already been reserved for the United States, European Union and others. Only 10 percent of them are left for latecomers. The Korean government plans to bring 20 million doses from Pfizer, but cannot be sure.
Authorities must take drastic action. If they dillydally further, inoculation could be possible only in the second half of next year. The government maintains it will take a discreet approach to immunization even after it secures the vaccines and hasn’t elaborated on its vaccination program. Safety concerns remain as Koreans still remember the controversy over flu shots due to shipment flops.
We remain vulnerable to Covid-19 unless we are immunized since there is no certain cure. The government has mistakenly ignored experts’ warnings. It must start expanding testing as early as next week. It must identify those carrying the virus without showing symptoms to stop a further spread.
Britain declared Tuesday as the so-called V-day after it rolled out the shots. Even as people in Korea are beleaguered under a renewed shutdown order, President Moon nonchalantly celebrated Trade Day on Tuesday by boasting of Korea’s quarantine success.