Brace for a lack of vaccinesConcerns about the discrepancy over supply and demand for Covid-19 vaccines and their efficacy are deepening at home and abroad. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) must take a prudent approach before distributing vaccines to the people and make all information public.
Under criticism for its relative unpreparedness for vaccine procurement, the Moon Jae-in administration hurriedly struck deals with global pharmaceutical companies late last year to purchase 76 million doses, including its preordered 20 million doses from Novavax. Given the government’s schedule to inoculate people starting mid-February, there seems to be no major problem with the vaccination schedule.
But alarms are ringing with concerns of short supplies in Europe, which began inoculating citizens from the end of last year. According to Bloomberg, only 2.7 percent of the French, 2.6 percent of the German and 2.3 percent of the Italian population has been vaccinated more than once. If such a slow pace continues, it could take up to seven years for humanity to form herd immunity.
The low rate of inoculation in the European Union mostly results from a critical dearth of vaccines. The EU reportedly preordered 1.45 billion doses, but only 12.9 million have been distributed to its member nations. A high-ranking EU official admitted its mistake of underestimating the difficulty of mass-producing the vaccines.
After Moscow first approved Sputnik V, the first registered coronavirus vaccine, Western countries ridiculed it and distrusted vaccines from China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac. But those European countries are planning to import the vaccines from Russia and China on the condition that they disclose information on clinical tests. Such a dramatic turnaround represents their desperation.
Another question involves the effectiveness of vaccines. Our government plans to inoculate people aged 65 and over with AstraZeneca vaccines despite controversy over its inefficacy among that age group from this month. A review committee from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety recommended the government make a prudent decision on the vaccine. Research by the University of Oxford showed the limited efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccines against a variant first found in South Africa. A total of nine people have been infected from that strain of the virus in Korea as of Jan. 6.
Concerns about a global lack of vaccine supplies and their effectiveness is deepening. The government must tread carefully and mend its policies if necessary.