The first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech arrived in South Korea this Friday lunchtime.
Rather than going to the ultra-cold storage facility, the vaccine is being transported using cold-chain vehicles straight to the hospitals where it will be given out.
Our Jang Tae-hyun is standing by at the National Medical Center to tell us more about this situation.
So, Tae-hyun, why was the vaccine directly transported to hospitals rather than the storage facility and do we have the schedule set for the vaccination?
Hey Conn-young, that's a good question.
Pfizer's vaccine should be stored at around minus 80 to minus 60 degrees Celsius and large shipments of Pfizer's vaccine will be first stored at the ultra-cold storage facility in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi-do Province.
But since the first shipment is very small, it went straight to the hospitals rather than the storage facility.
Starting from Saturday, medical staff who take care of COVID-19 patients will start receiving the jab.
Around 55-thousand people have agreed to be vaccinated.
So tomorrow, 300 medical workers will get the shot at the National Medical Center in Seoul.
199 staff working at that hospital and 101 from other COVID-19 treatment facilities in the capital region are the first to get the Pfizer vaccine.
Through the COVAX facility, 117-thousand doses of the vaccine have arrived.
Since people need two shots each, this batch will be enough for 58,500 people.
As well as the batch from the COVAX facility, South Korea is also buying doses for 13 million people directly from Pfizer.
And, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that Pfizer can be stored at higher temperatures. So, is this going to bring any changes to the plans?
Absolutely. It will make the storage much easier.
Pfizer is a very tricky vaccine to handle, as it has to be stored at ultra-low temperatures.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, local time, frozen vials of the vaccine may be transported and stored in freezers commonly found in pharmacies,… with temperatures around minus 20 degrees Celsius.
In normal freezers, vaccines will only be allowed to be stored for up to two weeks.
Meanwhile, two of the three expert panels from South Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety have now approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccines for use nationwide.
After clinical trials, experts concluded the vaccines were safe and effective for people aged 16 and over.
So, there's just the final review to go, and the results will come out early in March.
However, this batch of Pfizer vaccines from the COVAX facility comes under special import exceptions, which means it can be given before the review is complete.
A recent real-world study held by Israel's Clalit Research Institute and Harvard University showed that Pfizer's vaccine reduced symptomatic cases by 94 percent one week after the second dose.
That's all I have for now. Back to you in the studio.