We’re holding this special meeting to check our epidemic prevention and control status a week before I depart for the G7 Summit. The Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism is also joining us today to discuss ways to ensure that summer vacations are relaxing and safe.
Despite some vaccination concerns and distrust, the inoculation rate is rising steeply, surpassing the global average last week, and we are rapidly overtaking countries that had been ahead of us in vaccinations. People’s expectations are increasing as well. Amid the great enthusiasm for scheduling a vaccination, the reservation rate among the elderly, ages 60 and above, was well over 80 percent, exceeding the target. The actual turnout rate among those who made a reservation is nearly 100 percent. Any leftover doses from missed appointments are being administered effectively as well through no-show reservations, significantly contributing to raising the vaccination rate. I can say that every part of our inoculation plan – importing vaccines, scheduling shots and administering doses – is proceeding seamlessly, better than planned.
The goal of providing 13 million people with their first vaccine shot is expected to be met by the end of this month. With the additional 1.01 million Janssen doses secured during my recent visit to the United States, it will even be possible to vaccinate over 14 million people within the first half of this year. The timeline for herd immunity can be expedited further. All of this can be attributed to everyone’s proactive cooperation and participation.
With the inoculation proceeding in stages and now starting to include those in their 50s, 36 million people, or 70 percent of the total population, will have received their first dose by the end of the third quarter. In particular, kindergarten and nursery school teachers as well as those at primary, middle and high schools will start being vaccinated from early July, making it possible for in-person classes to resume smoothly in the second semester. High school seniors and others preparing for college admissions will also be vaccinated, so they can safely take their college entrance exams.
The Republic of Korea can become a global model for vaccination as well. When we had the world’s second largest number of confirmed cases in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, no one could have imagined us becoming an exemplary country for epidemic prevention and control. In addition to active public participation and the dedication of excellent medical professionals, the creativity and IT capabilities demonstrated through our diagnostic test kits, drive-thru screening stations and the Mask Map app are being employed to the fullest again for vaccinations. Some examples are our low dead space (LDS) syringes and apps to locate vaccine doses available because of no-shows. If we fully draw on such strengths, we will be able to make our vaccination drive a success on the heels of Korea’s successful COVID-19 response. This success will become a source of pride for our people, and we will be able to contribute on a global scale. All of our country’s capabilities will be mobilized to ensure that happens.
If 14 million people receive their first shot by the end of this month, 28 percent of the population will have been vaccinated. That will help substantially reduce burdens on our epidemic prevention efforts since the number of confirmed cases is expected to decline as well, following the drops in mortality rates and the percentage of severely and critically ill patients. In addition, people will be able to relish the joy of gradually getting back to the daily routines that COVID-19 took from them. The Government will do all it can to restore peaceful daily lives at the earliest date possible for the people who have grown weary because of COVID-19.
First of all, the Government aims to make it possible for people to enjoy their upcoming summer vacations in a more relaxed manner. Another goal is to enable them to visit with family during the Chuseok break this year, as was once commonplace, and to take off their masks at least while talking to relatives.
Summer vacation season is just around the corner. We will do our utmost to ensure that people are fully able to take a vacation even with meticulous epidemic prevention and safety measures in place. Along with extending the period when summer vacations can be taken, we will implement a variety of detailed measures such as minimizing congestion at vacation sites through IT and big data-based services and providing convenient services for booking accommodations and visiting museums, performance halls and sports venues.
A comfortable and safe vacation requires the efforts of society as a whole, not just the Government. I hope that businesses will actively cooperate with the Government’s recommendation that they extend their regular vacation periods so leaves can be spread out as much as possible. I also ask the public not to forget to comply with epidemic prevention and control rules even for a moment.
In response to COVID-19, a seemingly endless virus that mutates over and over, countries across the world are keeping an eye on procuring enough vaccines for use beyond next year. We will also be working to secure contracts for next year’s vaccine doses as soon as possible. Efforts will be made to ensure that sufficient amounts of vaccines are secured – even considering that the age range to be covered in the third phase of the vaccination may be expanded.
We will be sure to secure vaccine sovereignty. Support for domestic vaccine development will be strengthened further by making advance purchases of products that have a high probability of success – those expected to enter third-stage clinical trials in the third quarter.
The Global Vaccine Partnership agreed to at the Korea-U.S. summit will be implemented in a speedy manner. We will continue to provide support to maximize domestic vaccine production capacity while beginning follow-up consultations between the two countries in earnest.
Meanwhile, during my visit to the United States, a Korean company signed a contract manufacturing agreement with Moderna, making Korea one of the few countries that manufacture four COVID-19 vaccines whose safety and efficacy have been recognized around the world. With the excellence of Korean companies’ production capabilities being acknowledged worldwide, the Government will do everything possible through more systematic and active support to see Korea contributing globally as a vaccine supply hub, let alone to secure vaccines for domestic use.