SEOUL - The South Korean government said Tuesday that it will buy coronavirus vaccines for up to 44 million people, or nearly 90 percent of the country's population.
The vaccines will be purchased from Britain's AstraZeneca Plc and through a global vaccine project known as COVAX that is designed to guarantee equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The government originally planned to buy vaccines for about 30 million people but will increase the amount because of uncertainties about the effectiveness of vaccines still under development and due to global competition for vaccines, Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung Hoo said at a press briefing.
Park said about 36 million people, including old people, those with chronic diseases and those providing medical care, will have priority in receiving vaccines.
Vaccination is expected to begin in the latter half of next year, according to Yonhap News Agency.
The government has allocated 1.3 trillion won ($1.2 billion) in its budget to buy coronavirus vaccines.
South Korea, one of the countries considered to have managed the COVID-19 crisis relatively well, has been experiencing a new surge in daily infections recently.
The country reported 594 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to over 38,700, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.