South Korea’s defence ministry on Wednesday decided to allow soldiers and civilian workers affiliated to the US Forces Korea (USFK) to get Covid-19 vaccinations with doses shipped from the US for its service members stationed here, officials said.
The South Korean troops affiliated with the Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army, known as KATUSA, as well as civilians working for USFK, are eligible for the inoculation according to the US government’s vaccination plan, and USFK and Seoul’s defence ministry have discussed the matter, Yonhap News Agency reported.
“We’ve notified USFK of our decision that the inoculation will be possible if the Korean nationals can make a voluntary decision and the US military provides a list of those taking shots to our side,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
They will be first South Koreans to receive Covid-19 vaccines in the country. South Korea plans to start its vaccination programme in February.
USFK began administering its initial doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday to health care workers, first responders and its command team, after the first shipment of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine arrived in South Korea last week.
The Moderna vaccine was authorised for emergency use and vaccination is voluntary, though USFK strongly recommends its members take the shots.
“USFK applauds MND’s decision to allow Korean Nationals and KATUSAs to be vaccinated alongside their USFK teammates,” USFK said in a statement, referring to South Korea’s Ministry of National Defence by its acronym.
“We will begin to inoculate those who volunteer within the next few days as appointments become available within their designated group,” it added.
The Seoul ministry said the vaccinations for the South Koreans will take place according to USFK’s own plan. The inoculation is likely to begin as early as on Monday.
Exactly how many South Koreans will subject to the inoculation campaign was not immediately known.
Currently, there are more than 3,000 Army troops working as part of KATUSA at US military installations, and around 40 KATUSA soldiers are working inside the US’ Allgood Army Community Hospital inside Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, where the USFK headquarters are located.