About 100 South Korean athletes and coaches travelling to Tokyo for the Olympics received their first doses of coronavirus vaccines on Thursday, as the country’s inoculation programme struggles with a shortage of supplies. Vaccinations are not mandatory for participants in the Games, set to run from July 23 to Aug 8 after being pushed back from last year because of the pandemic, but they are recommended. “Getting this shot makes me feel the Olympics is truly around the corner,” taekwondo player Lee Dae-Hoon said at a public clinic in Seoul, the capital, adding that he did not experience any unusual symptoms immediately.
Table tennis exponent Lee Sang-su, who said he felt “relieved” after being vaccinated, expects it to help him focus on training and better preparation.
About 500 more athletes and coaches will get shots by the first week of May, the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee (KSOC) said, for a total of 930 people in the national delegation.
Of these, 598 athletes and coaches will get the Pfizer vaccine, with a shorter dose interval of two to three weeks that is less likely to hinder performance than the AstraZeneca product earmarked for administrative staff over 30, the panel said.
Olympics organisers have rolled out stricter virus countermeasures, including a daily testing plan for athletes, as they move to reassure a Japanese public made increasingly sceptical by the resurgent pandemic.
Infection rates over the next few days would help South Korea decide whether to adjust social distancing rules, authorities said.
“Most of the transmission routes are from coming into contact with confirmed patients,” Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol told a virus response meeting.
Vaccinations are picking up, said Kwon, reaffirming a June government target to cover 12 million people in key groups from frontline workers to the elderly, en route to reaching herd immunity by November.
About 3 million of a population of 52 million had received their first vaccine dose by Thursday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said, for a rate of just above 4 per cent that lgas the 41 per cent of the United States, however.
The drug safety ministry said Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine and one developed by Novavax had been submitted for preliminary regulatory approval.
Wednesday’s 680 new infections took South Korea’s tally to 121,351, with 1,825 deaths, the disease control agency added.