S.Korea says 81% of elderly signed up for COVID-19 vaccination

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea said on Friday it expects to meet its vaccination target for the first half of the year ahead of schedule as 81% of people aged between 60 and 74 years old have signed up for COVID-19 inoculations.

FILE PHOTO: A South Korean elderly woman receives her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at a vaccination centre in Seoul, South Korea April 1, 2021. Chung Sung-Jun/Pool via REUTERS

The government will begin offering inoculation for this age group in June, as it widens its vaccination programme launched in late February after it prioritised frontline workers, medical staff and nursing home patients.

South Korea’s vaccine rollout has been hampered by global shortages and shipment delays, while the government has also sought to boost immunisation by easing restrictions for people who have been vaccinated.

“The government raised on May 3 our vaccination goal for the first half to 13 million people from 12 million previously,” Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) director Jeong Eun-kyeong told a briefing.

“We believe this would be possible,” she added.

South Korea has inoculated 7.1 million people, or 13.8% of its 52 million population, with at least one dose since it began the vaccination campaign. It aims to vaccinate roughly the same number of people this month.

Jeong said the United States’ donation of 1 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week would mean that more than 25% of South Korean residents would be vaccinated with a first dose by the end of this month.

A total of 7.3 million people, or 80.6% of people between 60 and 74, have signed up for vaccinations, as the country closed reservations for the priority group on Thursday, health authorities said in a statement.

South Korea aims to inoculate over 70% of the public by September and reach herd immunity by November.

The country is battling small clusters of infections and maintains stringent social distancing rules. It reported 695 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total tally to 142,852 infections, with a total death toll of 1,969.

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