SEOUL: South Korean officials fuelled hope on Monday (May 3) for the arrival of 7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine by mid-May to prop up an inoculation campaign that is flagging as supplies dwindle, hit by shipment delays.
Nearly 3.4 million of the population of 52 million had received their first dose by Sunday in the campaign begun in February, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
A shipment of 7 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive in mid-May, the agency added, without giving a date.
President Moon Jae-in said the campaign was going better than initially planned, since it had met a goal of vaccinating 3 million people by the end of Apr.
"We might be able to raise our first-half target to 13 million from the current 12 million, if we effectively use supplies that arrive in each period as much as possible," Moon Jae-in told a meeting of officials to combat the virus.
However, at the current pace of the campaign, with about 200,000 people receiving a dose each day, supplies could run out within a few days.
This is because available stocks amount to just 529,000 doses of Pfizer's vaccine and 381,000 doses of the AstraZeneca product, an agency official told Reuters.
Opposition lawmakers accused Moon's government of creating a "vaccine crunch" by failing to plan ahead and secure sufficient supplies, citing a national vaccination rate of about 6.6 per cent, well below the 41 per cent of the United States.
South Korea has lined up 192 million doses of vaccines, including those from Novavax, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, but has had to contend with shipment delays amid global supply shortages.