Coming up short

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Coming up short

The Moon Jae-in administration’s hurried dispatch of a government delegation to the headquarters of Moderna in the United States after daily Covid-19 cases soared to 2,000 hinted at the possibility of solving repeated delays in supplies from the drugmaker. But the return of the delegation empty handed has exposed what went wrong with the government’s contract with Moderna from the start. Nevertheless, it still made pretend all is well — without presenting solutions to obvious problems.

After returning on Sunday, the delegation announced that Moderna promised to increase its supplies between August and September and do its best to ship agreed vaccines in early September in particular. But the delegation only relayed Moderna’s pledge to “supply more vaccines as soon as possible” without any specifics on the timing and volume of its shipments.

After being criticized for a failure to purchase vaccines early on, the government boasted about its plan to receive 40 million doses from Moderna earlier than scheduled. President Moon even held a showy video conference with the Moderna CEO to urge him to supply them. But Moderna didn’t keep its promise four times and recently has shipped only 6 percent of what it promised to supply. Whenever anyone demanded the government reveal details of its contract on a monthly and quarterly basis, it refused, citing “an agreement with Moderna not to disclose the details.”

But the homepage of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services specifies all the details of the U.S. government’s contracts with Moderna, including monthly and quarterly supply quantities. The European Union is no exception. Yet, our government’s contract with Moderna did not stipulate its monthly and quarterly supplies. That raises strong suspicion that the Moon administration deceived the people under the pretext of a “confidential deal” with Moderna even after striking a humiliating contract with the company.

Despite such a lack of transparency, Park Soo-hyun, senior Blue House secretary for public communication, reassured the public that the government can achieve the goal of fully vaccinating the population by October, as Moon promised in an address on Aug. 15. After Moon suddenly advanced the timing of full vaccination by one month from November, an increasing number of people started wondering why. The government’s reassurance is not convincing.

Vaccines are not a panacea, but are the only means we can rely on when daily cases have skyrocketed. The government must be frank. If it keeps making empty promises, that constitutes a dereliction of duty.
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