SEOUL: South Korea's President Moon Jae-in received AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday (Mar 23) ahead of an overseas trip, as the country began inoculating more senior citizens and health workers in an effort to accelerate its vaccination drive.
Moon, 68, got the shot from a community clinic near his office in Seoul to prepare for a planned visit to the United Kingdom for a Group of Seven (G7) summit in June.
Moon's wife and nine aides who will accompany him on the trip, including national security adviser Suh Hoon, were also vaccinated, his office said in a statement.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has invited South Korea, India and Australia to attend the summit as guests.
South Korea's government on Tuesday began inoculating nearly 300,000 people at care hospitals and nursing homes who are 65 or older and medical workers there, as it steps up its vaccination drive.
About 680,000 high-risk healthcare professionals and critically ill people have been vaccinated since the campaign kicked off at the end of February, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
Authorities aim to inoculate nearly a quarter of the country's 52 million population by June and achieve herd immunity by November amid a third wave of COVID-19 outbreaks.
The KDCA allowed people carrying out a key public mission such as a diplomatic or military task to be vaccinated starting this month.
The care facility patients and employees will also get an AstraZeneca shot, the KDCA said, with about 77 per cent of the 375,000 eligible agreeing to get it.
Authorities reaffirmed on Monday that they have found no evidence of health risk despite reports of blood clots among those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe.
South Korea authorised the product for people 65 and older this month after delaying its use for that age group, citing a lack of clinical data.
"I'm willing to get an AstraZeneca vaccine first if that helps reassure people so that they feel safe about participating in the campaign," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a meeting on Tuesday.
The KDCA reported 346 new cases as of Monday, bringing the total caseload to 99,421, with 1,704 deaths.