Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun has said that South Korea plans to spend 146 million dollars to obtain coronavirus vaccines.
The premier said they were initially aiming to secure a supply for 30 million people, or 60 per cent of its population, as it battles persistent outbreaks of new cases.
The population target is higher than a World Health Organisation (WHO) goal for the early purchase of supplies for 20 per cent of the world’s most vulnerable people.
Meanwhile, no less than 40 per cent agreed by European Union nations, Britain and EU partners for their populations.
“While South Korean authorities would like to inoculate the entire population of 52 million, uncertainty around any vaccine’s safety, efficacy and development was limiting investment,’’ Chung told a cabinet meeting.
Global vaccine makers are racing to develop an effective vaccine against the virus that has killed over 925,000 people since it emerged in China late 2019.
Chung said the government would negotiate with relevant international organisations and vaccine makers to secure the supply and would buy more as developments unfolded.
In August, South Korea said it planned to join the COVAX facility, a global novel coronavirus vaccine allocation plan co-led by the WHO, which aims to help buy and fairly distribute the shots.
“South Korea will buy 20 million doses of vaccine from the COVAX scheme, enough for 10 million people, and 40 million doses from private drug-makers,’’ health authorities said in a statement.
The government has prepared 172 billion won (146 million dollars) to pay for vaccines, including 70 million dollars for the 20 million doses from the COVAX facility.
South Korea has been one of the world’s coronavirus mitigation success stories, with an aggressive testing and tracing strategy, however it has nevertheless been battling persistent spikes in infections.