'Don't worry, come forward': Asian nations get 1st shots

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Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin receives the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. (Malaysia Health Ministry via AP)

Many nations in the Asia-Pacific region are rolling out the first shots for COVID-19 this week.

Here's a look at major developments:

SOUTH KOREA

South Korea’s top infectious disease experts warned that vaccines will not bring the disease to a quick end and called for continued vigilance in social distancing and mask wearing as the country prepares to give its first shots on Friday.

Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said Wednesday it would take a “considerably long time” before the mass vaccination campaign brings the virus under control.

The country aims to vaccinate more than 70% of the population by November. But a safe return to a life without masks is highly unlikely this year, considering various factors including the growing spread of virus variants, said Choi Won Suk, an infectious disease professor at the Korea University Ansan Hospital.

“We are concerned that people might drop their guard as vaccination begins, triggering another massive wave of the virus,” Jeong said.

Jeong spoke as South Korea began transporting the first vaccines rolled off a production line in the southern city of Andong, where local pharmaceutical company SK Bioscience is manufacturing the shots developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.