SEOUL (UPDATE) - South Korea launched its COVID-19 inoculation campaign on Friday, with shots to be administered in some 200 nursing homes, in a campaign that officials call the first step in returning the country to more normal life.
The first doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine began to be given at 9 a.m.(0000 GMT) to nursing home workers and some patients at facilities across the country of about 52 million.
On Saturday, authorities plan to start giving 117,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE to around 55,000 health-care workers in coronavirus treatment facilities.
Despite complaints over a slow start, and debate over the efficacy of AstraZeneca's vaccine for older people, surveys show wide interest among South Koreans in being vaccinated.
Some leading health experts have raised doubts about the country's ability to stick to its ambitious goal of protecting 10 million high-risk people by July, on its way to reaching herd immunity, defined as at least a 70 percent take-up, by November.
On Friday, shots will be administered to 5,266 nursing home staffers and patients in 213 facilities, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said, although authorities have excluded people aged 65 years and older from AstraZeneca's vaccine, citing a lack of data on efficacy in the elderly.
Despite the concern, a government poll showed on Thursday that 94 percent of 367,000 health-care workers aged 64 or younger in priority groups said they were ready to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.