Moon’s vaccine debacleOwing to government missteps in the initial stages, vaccine policy seems to be stuck in a maze. To solve an ever-evolving conundrum, the government comes up with one novel idea after another. But it never gets close to a solution. The public is confused and concerned about what steps the government will take to protect the people from the coronavirus. People can hardly trust what President Moon Jae-in says about his administration’s vaccination program.
Moon’s opacity on our current vaccination status were evident in the remarks he made during a lunch with the new mayors of Seoul, Oh Se-hoon, and of Busan, Park Hyeong-joon, at the Blue House Tuesday. “The bigger problem is the slow pace of inoculation, not a shortage of vaccines,” he said. That sounds like he’s putting the blame on the medical community’s slow vaccination campaign. The simple fact is that the country has not bought enough vaccines. That’s a diagnosis detached from reality, or in other words, a passing of the buck.
Everyone knows what caused the critical delay in inoculations. After holding a videoconference with the CEO of Moderna last December, Moon declared the government would import 40 million doses of Moderna vaccines in the second quarter. Those vaccines are delayed to the second half of the year. No one knows when Janssen vaccines will arrive.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Chung Ui-yong said that a serious discussion on a “vaccine swap” was underway with the United States. But in a meeting with senior journalists the following day, he backed down. “The U.S. government says its domestic situation is not looking good either,” he said. Appearing in the National Assembly on the same day, Health and Welfare Minister said the government acquired additional vaccines in large quantity even before the government made contracts with global pharmaceutical companies.
An official in charge of the government’s vaccine purchase programs added his own misinformation. Last week, he announced that local companies were commissioned to produce a large amount of vaccines from August. But the deal was not signed yet. The health authority even mentioned the possibility of banning exports of AstraZeneca vaccines being manufactured by a local company.
After meeting with Biden over the weekend, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took up his role as vaccine commander and secured enough Pfizer vaccines for the Japanese. Moon has ordered his aides to find ways to purchase Russian Sputnik V vaccines. If that’s not an admission of failure, what would be? Moon must stake his presidency on acquiring vaccines. Instead of triggering public confusion, he must prove his ability to protect the lives of the people. That’s the role of the commander in chief.