SEOUL: South Korea on Friday administered its first accessible shots of coronavirus vaccines to folks at long-term care amenities, launching a mass immunization marketing campaign that well being authorities hope will restore some degree of normalcy by the top of the 12 months.
The rollout of vaccines come at a important time for the nation, which has seen its hard-won positive aspects in opposition to the virus get worn out by a winter surge and is struggling to mitigate the pandemic’s financial shock that decimated service sector jobs.
The vaccinations started shortly earlier than the nation reported one other new 406 instances of the coronavirus, brining its caseload to 88,922, together with 1,585 deaths.
More than 5,260 residents and staff at 213 nursing properties, psychological establishments and rehab facilities who’re underneath the age of 65 will obtain their first shots of a two-dose vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Friday.
An unspecified variety of sufferers and staff at 292 long-term care hospitals in the identical age group can even get the vaccine, in accordance with officers on the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
Health authorities plan to finish injecting the first doses to some 344,000 residents and staff at long-term care settings and 55,000 frontline medical staff by the top of March.
Long-term care amenities, the place elders or folks with critical well being issues typically reside in crowded settings, have endured the worst of South Korea’s outbreak.
About 35% of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths on the finish of 2020 have been linked to those amenities, mentioned Jaehun Jung, a professor of preventive medication on the Gachon University College of Medicine in Incheon.
But there’s criticism over the federal government’s choice to delay the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines for folks over 65 till the builders present extra information that means the shots could be efficient in that age group.
Some specialists, together with Jung, say the choice dangers the security of people who find themselves most weak to COVID-19 when the nation shall be mainly depending on domestically produced Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines throughout the early a part of its vaccination marketing campaign.
Despite what the federal government sees as a scarcity of laboratory information on its efficacy in older adults, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine remains to be exhibiting real-world effectiveness in stopping critical sicknesses and decreasing loss of life charges in the nations the place it was used, the specialists say.
People over 80 account for simply 5% of the nation’s coronavirus instances, however 56% of its virus-related deaths, Jung mentioned.
Using refrigerated vehicles escorted by police and army autos, South Korea transported 1.57 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines throughout the nation from Wednesday to Thursday.
These shots have been among the many international provides produced in the southern metropolis of Andong, the place native pharmaceutical firm SK Bioscience manufactures the vaccines underneath a contract with AstraZeneca.
Separately, docs, nurses and different well being professionals treating COVID-19 sufferers will start receiving the shots developed by Pfizer and BioNTech from Saturday.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which South Korea obtained by the WHO-backed COVAX program, are anticipated to reach at Incheon International Airport on Friday afternoon to be transported to 5 main COVID-19 therapy hospitals.
South Korea plans to finish injecting the first doses to some 344,000 residents and staff at long-term care amenities, which additionally embody psychological establishments and rehab facilities, and 55,000 frontline medical staff inside March.
The subsequent accessible vaccines are prone to go to staff at basic hospitals, paramedics, quarantine staff and folks over 65 years in age earlier than broader teams of adults start receiving shots in summer season.
South Korea plans to safe sufficient doses to vaccinate 79 million folks this 12 months, nicely over its inhabitants of 51 million, by bilateral negotiations with pharmaceutical corporations and COVAX, which was established to advertise international entry to vaccines.
While there was disappointment the shots have not come sooner, officers have insisted South Korea might afford a wait-and-see method as its outbreak is not as dire as in America or Europe.
Officials intention to vaccinate greater than 70% of the inhabitants by November, which they hope would meaningfully gradual the virus and scale back dangers of financial and social exercise.
However, specialists say a protected return to life with out masks could be extremely unlikely this 12 months, contemplating the necessity to monitor the vaccines’ real-world effectiveness and the rising unfold of virus variants which are feared to be extra contagious.
“Even if we obtain the federal government goal by November, we in all probability will not have the ability to (instantly) return to the pre-COVID-19 days,” mentioned Choi Won Suk, an infectious illness professor on the Korea University Ansan Hospital, west of Seoul.
“But if we keep a sure degree of social distancing and masks sporting because the vaccinations proceed, there shall be some extent the place we might now not be critically worrying a couple of huge wave of the virus,” permitting for a sure degree of social and financial exercise, he mentioned.