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Quarter of S.Koreans get at least one vaccine dose ahead of schedule

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SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea has inoculated 25% of its population with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine two weeks ahead of schedule, authorities said on Wednesday, putting the country on track to meet a target of 70% by September.

The milestone follows a stepped-up drive that injected a daily average of 650,000 doses, rising to a record 850,000 on one day, boosted by increased supply and people’s growing willingness in the wake of a slow start with limited supplies.

“With active participation and smooth vaccination, we expect to reach the first-dose vaccination for 36 million people by September,” health ministry official Yoon Tae-ho told a briefing.

“Once that happens, we will inch closer to opportunities where we can enjoy some leisurely everyday life.”

The government will announce this week a detailed vaccination plan for the third quarter, covering teachers in kindergartens and schools and those aged between 50 and 59.

It said the vaccination drive, now focused on the elderly, helped cut the overall mortality rate as well as infections in care homes and medical facilities.

The mortality rate for COVID-19 has fallen to 1.34% this week from 1.67% on March 1, government data shows.

Health authorities warned against easing rules on social distancing, however, as the vaccination rate is still low and a single vaccine dose has limited efficacy. Just 6.7% of the population of 52 million is fully vaccinated.

South Korea reported 545 new infections by midnight on Tuesday, for a tally of 149,191 cases, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said, with a death toll of 1,993.

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