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Asia Minute: South Korea Sets Vaccine Targets for National Holiday

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

President Biden has set a target date of July 4 to get 70% of adults vaccinated with a single COVID-19 shot. While that goal may or may not be reached, in the Asia Pacific there’s a similar target—but with a later date.

In Korea, there’s a big national holiday in late September and this year it has a special significance.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is promising a “mask-free Chuseok,” a traditional harvest celebration--the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving.

Moon said the goal is for 70% of the population to get the first shot by the end of September and achieve “herd immunity” by November.

That means there’s a lot of work ahead.

The government says about 16% of South Korea’s population of roughly 51 million has received one dose of the vaccine, while only about 4% are fully vaccinated.

The pace of vaccinations is picking up—in part because of incentives.

These are not so much the lottery-style inducements that some states and countries are using. These are behavior-based.

For example, once you get your first shot, you can take off your mask outside. And starting in July you can have family gatherings of more than four people.

The shift in rules seems to be resulting in more shots.

On Monday, nearly 900,000 doses were administered—a new daily record.

Case numbers in the country still fluctuate, but are averaging 500 to 600 a day—while South Korea’s death toll from COVID is approaching 2,000.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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