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[KH Explains] How to get yourself a COVID-19 vaccine earlier than scheduled

May 27, 2021 - 13:19 By Ko Jun-tae
A person in Jung-gu, central Seoul, attempts to make a reservation for leftover COVID-19 vaccines through two mobile applications soon after the booking system opened at 1 p.m. Thursday. Naver showed that no AstraZeneca vaccines were available through its map-based system, and relevant information could not be accessed on KakaoTalk. (Yonhap)
Starting Thursday, South Korea launched a system for people to reserve leftover COVID-19 vaccines on a daily basis through mobile applications.

For those concerned about vaccine supplies, the news could be exciting, as they now have a chance to skip ahead of the line.

The system could also play a role in helping the country carry out its vaccination plan on time, or even sooner than originally scheduled. Korea aims to inoculate 13 million people by the end of June and achieve herd immunity by November.

Here are some questions that you might have if you are interested in getting inoculated earlier.

Q. What exactly is this new system, and how does this run?

A. The new system launched at 1 p.m. Thursday is a real-time search system that allows people to find and reserve leftover COVID-19 vaccines on a given day. It’s at a trial stage at the moment, and the official launch is slated for June 6.

For the next two weeks starting Thursday, people will be able to search how many doses of vaccines are left at local vaccination centers using their mobile phones. COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca are the only ones available for reservation at the moment.

The system is available for all Koreans and foreigners with national health insurance here. Vaccination is free of charge.

Q. What do you mean by leftover?

A. Some people fail to appear at vaccination centers on time for their appointments, leaving vaccination centers with leftover doses. Vaccines supplied to each center have to be used on the same day, and if nobody shows up to claim the leftovers, they have to be discarded for safety reasons.

The system makes these “no-show” doses available to others. Those who receive a shot will automatically be eligible for a second dose 11 weeks later.

Q. OK, so how do I reserve it?

A. The service is available on Naver and KakaoTalk by searching for “잔여 백신.” You will need to register as users and be prepared to undergo a self-verification process.

The service on either app is only available in Korean at the moment, so a bit of proficiency in Korean would be required for the time being. That could be fixed during the trial period, so we will have to wait and see.

After searching “잔여 백신” on Naver, the platform will show a map-based interface on how many doses of vaccines are left at each vaccination center. You can click on a center to start the reservation process. If successful, the app will confirm your reservation.

A similar service is also available through KakaoTalk. Users should search for “잔여 백신” or click on the tab with the same title to start the map-based search and reservation processes.

You can only search and make reservations on the day during regular vaccination hours from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. You cannot search ahead for reservations on the following day.

Q. Is there anything else that I need to know?

A. Even though two separate mobile applications are running the reservation system, you will not be allowed to book twice through different apps. The system as a whole runs in real-time and requires self-verification from users, so any duplicate reservations will not be accepted.

To cancel your reservation, you will have to call the vaccination center you signed up for directly. If you fail to cancel and do not show up for the appointment, you will no longer be able to use the reservation system.

The system is only made to search and reserve COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca, and that means only individuals aged 30 or above will be able to reserve their jabs within the system. No system is available for vaccines from Pfizer at the moment.

Please remember that the system is only to reserve and receive first shots of the two-shot regimen. If you already have an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, you will not be allowed to use this system.

By Ko Jun-tae (