Securing vaccines is a duty
The author is the Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
When the Covid-19 outbreak started in the United States, Washington paid attention to Korea’s disease control. Think tanks hosted videoconferences on Korea’s successful disease control rather than the usual North Korean nuclear program and Korea-U.S. alliance. In the statement issued by President-elect Joe Biden after his first telephone conversation with President Moon Jae-in, he focused on health care cooperation. But that was it. As the Covid-19 agenda turned from test-and-trace to vaccination, Korea was forgotten. I heard Korea still talks about the so-called K-quarantine, but nobody else is.
I already expected the situation. When the United States, Britain and Japan rushed to make vaccine contracts, I only heard about the number of cases and social distancing level in Korea. Then Moon suddenly said that the end of the long tunnel is nearing with vaccines and treatments. He said the government secured 44 million doses. Yet the product, delivery date and volume are not decided.
The United States will be provided with 100 million doses from Pfizer and another 100 million doses from Moderna in the first quarter of 2021. Recently, another 100 million doses were purchased from Moderna for the second quarter of 2021. A bit less than half of the U.S. population of 330 million will complete vaccination by the first half of the year.
Donald Trump is at fault for underestimating the risk of Covid-19 and encouraging his supporters not to follow disease control protocols, resulting in 300,000 deaths. But it is clearly his accomplishment to launch a “superspeed operation” to develop the vaccine in a record time. He selected six pharmaceutical companies, provided R&D funds to five of them and pre-purchased vaccines. He had a clear policy goal of ending Covid-19 with vaccine development.
It is a president’s job to secure vaccines to get out of the worst pandemic in a century since the Spanish Flu in 1918. It is not on the officials to decide on the contract, and the president should not be afraid of the responsibility for failed vaccines. Secretary of Health Alex Azar or Center for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield did not make the decision. It was President Trump’s decision.
People laughed at Americans for not wearing masks properly and the empty shelves from panic-buying, but the United States found the exit to this painful tunnel first. Ever since vaccinations began, a hopeful mood has been felt. Televisions show doctors and nurses in blue scrubs getting vaccinated every day. This is when you can say the end of the tunnel is visible.