The Korea Herald


1m Moderna doses arrive Thursday

Health workers call off strike after reaching settlement with government

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Sept. 2, 2021 - 15:14

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Some 1 million doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine arrived Thursday. But concerns remain that if more shipments do not come in on schedule, the nation’s vaccination plan could face setbacks ahead of the Chuseok holiday.

Just over 1 million doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived at Incheon International Airport on Thursday, out of the 7.01 million doses that Moderna promised to supply by this week.

Of the promised doses, 1.01 million arrived Aug. 23 and the remaining 4.98 million are set to arrive in batches through Sunday.

If all those shipments come in on time, 70 percent of the nation can receive their first coronavirus shots before the Chuseok holiday as scheduled. But doubts still remain as arrivals have been delayed due to supply disruptions.

Senior Health Ministry official Son Young-rae dismissed the concerns Thursday.

“The government has never failed to present and achieve its inoculation goal,” he said. “We inform you that there is no problem in achieving the goal.”

He said the government would continue to provide updates about vaccine arrivals.

On the same day, 526,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in Korea from Romania as part of a vaccine swap involving 1.5 million doses altogether. The rest are scheduled to arrive Sept. 8.

So far 31.7 percent of Korea’s population is fully inoculated and 57 percent is partially inoculated.

A day earlier, about 178,000 people got their first shots and 533,000 people had their second. About 29.4 million people to date had received their initial shots and 16.2 million people were fully vaccinated.

Despite ongoing vaccination efforts, the fourth wave of COVID-19 shows no signs of abating and infections -- mostly with the highly contagious delta variant -- have spread fast throughout the nation.

As of Wednesday at midnight, the number of newly confirmed cases was 1,961, with the daily number surpassing 1,000 for 58 days.

Of the newly confirmed cases, 1,927 were locally transmitted, with the Greater Seoul area accounting for 70.7 percent and with 1,361 people testing positive in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon.

The coronavirus death toll increased by 11, bringing the total to 2,303 for a fatality rate of 0.9 percent.

The government heaved a sigh of relief after reaching a settlement with medical workers, who were scheduled to go on strike Thursday morning.

After hours of negotiations that began Wednesday afternoon, the Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union, representing more than 56,000 nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals, reached an agreement with the Ministry of Health. They held a joint press briefing at 2 a.m. the following day, saying the two sides had agreed to call off the strike.

The last-minute settlement was reached as the government accepted the union’s demands on five key issues, including the establishment of infectious disease hospitals, the expansion of the nation’s health care workforce and legislation limiting the number of patients per nurse.

“As the agreement was drawn up after 13 long discussions, the ministry will sincerely discuss the revision of related bills and securing budgets with related ministries and the National Assembly,” Health Minister Kwon said at the briefing.

Under the agreement, the government will establish infectious disease hospitals in four areas by 2024. Also, starting next year, the standards for nurses and medical engineers are expected to be laid out step by step.

After signing the agreement, Na Soon-ja, a chairperson of the union, said it was the first step toward an expansion of public health care and labor power. But, she added, the promises would have to be kept strictly, as 83 percent of the delegates had voted in favor of calling off the strike conditionally.