(2nd LD) Moderna’s vaccine supply to run short in Aug.: health authorities

August 9, 2021

Moderna has notified South Korean health authorities that it will supply less than half of the 8.5 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine planned for August, Seoul officials said Monday, spawning concerns that the country’s vaccine rollout may hit a snag.

Moderna said some problems in labs related to vaccine production would cause a delay in its global vaccine supply, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The government clinched a deal to secure 40 million doses from U.S. pharmaceutical firm Moderna.

This is not the first time that Moderna has delayed the vaccine shipments to South Korea. The shipments initially set to arrive in late July were postponed to August.

After shipping 112,000 shots in the first half, the company has sent an additional 2.34 million doses to Korea since July.

People wait in line to receive COVID-19 vaccines at an inoculation center in southern Seoul on Aug. 6, 2021. (Yonhap)
People wait in line to receive COVID-19 vaccines at an inoculation center in southern Seoul on Aug. 6, 2021. (Yonhap)

The government said it will immediately lodge a complaint against Moderna over the delay in the vaccine supply.

Due to the expected supply shortage, health authorities have decided to readjust the timing for administering the second shot of Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines.

For those who received the first shot after July 26, the second dose will be given six weeks after the first, longer than the current four-week dosing regimen. The new change will be temporarily applied until next month.

The delay in the vaccine supply raises concerns that the country’s inoculation scheme for August and September may be hampered amid a recent flare-up in virus cases.

The country seeks to administer the first dose to 36 million people, 70 percent of its 52 million population, by September, with the goal of achieving herd immunity by November.

The nation is currently vaccinating those in their 50s and people in some priority groups. It also plans to start vaccinating some 16 million people aged between 18 and 49 on Aug. 26.

“Despite the change in Moderna’s supply plan, we think there will be no major problems in giving the first shot to 70 percent of the population by end-September and completing the inoculation by November,” KDCA chief Jeong Eun-kyeong told a press briefing.

The country is grappling with the fourth wave of the pandemic, with its new daily virus cases topping 1,000 for more than a month. It added 1,492 COVID-19 cases Monday, raising the total to 212,448.

South Korea has so far signed a deal to secure 193 million doses of vaccines for this year from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen and Novavax.

At least 20.9 million people have received the first shot, 40.8 percent of its population, since the country began its inoculation campaign on Feb. 26. The number of fully vaccinated people reached 7.7 million, or 15 percent of the population.