Health and Welfare Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said in an emergency briefing Moderna would send less than half of the roughly 9 million doses of her vaccine she had promised to ship. in August.
“The supply problems affect all countries, not just Korea,” he explained.
At the end of Saturday, about 10 million doses – 5 million AstraZeneca doses, 4 million Pfizer doses, 326,000 Moderna doses and 100,000 Johnson & Johnson doses – of vaccines remained in the country.
After next week, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, two doses of which are staggered three and four weeks apart, will be administered over a longer interval of six weeks. Exceptions will be made for high school graduates and other priority groups in the education sector who will receive theirs five weeks apart.
Korea has counted 1,492 more cases in the last 24-hour period, marking the 34th consecutive day of more than 1,000 new cases, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s situation report. The seven-day average of new cases was 1,635 on Sunday, more than triple since the home stretch of the winter wave in late January.
One in 4 patients with critical COVID-19 on life support was in their 40s or younger, and nearly all are not vaccinated. Of 376 ICU patients, 15% were in their 40s, 9% in their 30s and 6% in their 20s.
Younger patients ended up on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO – the last life-sustaining step given to the sickest patients – now unlike previous waves of the pandemic, the Korea Society for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery said in a press release before the weekend, which attested to the seriousness of the pandemic.
More than 60% of all COVID-19 beds for patients with severe or critical conditions were filled by Sunday evening.
Korea began offering the first dose of vaccination to people 50 years of age or older during the last week of July, with eligibility to open to those under 50 from August 26.
Some 40 percent of Korea’s 51 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 14 percent have been fully immunized since the national campaign launched on February 26.
“This surge is not unanswered, and it will eventually subside with the rollout of vaccines,” deputy head of the national health agency Kwon Jun-wook said on Friday. “The only way to reverse the pandemic is through vaccination. “