South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday he expects to vaccinate 13 million persons in the first half of the year and get at least one dose into all eligible persons by the end of September, faster than an original goal of November.
In a special address, Mr. Moon said the lack of a homegrown vaccine meant South Korea got off to a slower start than others. However, he said the country of 51 million people has enough doses to vaccinate the population “twice over” and reach herd immunity faster than expected.
“The government will make the most of our medical systems and infrastructure to enable large-scale vaccinations. I look forward to people’s active cooperation for their part,” he said in a translated version of the speech posted by the executive office known as Cheongwadae, or the Blue House.
South Korea was one of the first countries to battle the coronavirus in early 2020 after it spread outside of China. It won praise for its rapid testing and isolation capabilities as the virus flared in a far less controlled manner in places like Italy and then the U.S.
Mr. Moon said no one knew the pandemic would last as long as it has — the country is still battling flareups — but he hailed South Korea as “a model country more exemplary than other advanced nations in the fight against COVID-19.”
“I hope everyone holds on just a little bit more. An end to the war against COVID-19 is in sight. We are picking up speed with vaccination, nearing herd immunity,” he said. “This herd immunity may not be able to terminate COVID-19 but will make the disease less dangerous and help us return to our normal routines.”
The vaccination rollout is part of Mr. Moon’s plans to spur economic growth in the East Asian nation.
“The government will strive to achieve a faster and stronger economic rebound,” Mr. Moon said. “All government capabilities will be mobilized and private-sector vitality will be enhanced so that our economy will grow at more than 4% for the first time in 11 years.”