Concerns are mounting over the glacially slow pace of coronavirus vaccinations after yet another setback in the shape of an indefinite delay of the delivery of Moderna’s vaccine. Cheong Wa Dae published a lot of winning photos in December of President Moon Jae-in on the phone to the Moderna CEO, where he personally secured a promise that the vaccine would arrive in May, only to be told this week that it will not be forthcoming after all. Meanwhile AstraZeneca vaccine shots have been suspended on people under 30 due to side effects, while the U.S. has halted injections of Johnson & Jonson’s vaccine, 6 million doses of which were supposed to arrive in Korea shortly.
The government claims it signed a contract to ensure the Johnson & Johnson vaccine shipments get here in the second quarter, but the specific time frame remains murky. The situation is so bad that Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung and Minjoo Party lawmaker Song Young-gil are proposing the import of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, which has so far suffered from the general distrust in which Russia’s autocratic government is held in much of the world. There has been no suggestion from the government that it is seeking compensation from Moderna for breach of contract. So how firm was the promise? Just what kind of contract, if any, did the government sign? Now it says it cannot reveal the details of the contracts it has signed with drug makers. But why not? Such holes in the government’s every announcement only stoke public jitters.
On April 15, it suddenly claimed it is “working on” a contract for a domestic pharmaceutical company to produce a vaccine under license starting in August, but since then no further clarification has been forthcoming. Which drug maker? Which vaccine? The government is merely stoking speculation and sowing confusion.
There must be no more accusations of spreading “fake news” if the media report legitimate concerns about vaccine supplies. The government and ruling party must admit their failure to secure enough vaccines, and beg the lockdown-fatigued nation for forgiveness and understanding. Then they must concentrate all their resources on remedying the situation.
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