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Korea may begin COVID-19 vaccination in late January – Korea Times

Korea may begin COVID-19 vaccination in late January – Korea Times

Vials of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are seen before they are packaged at a lab of the Serum Institute of India, in Pune, India, Nov. 30. Reuters-Yonhap
Vials of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine are seen before they are packaged at a lab of the Serum Institute of India, in Pune, India, Nov. 30. Reuters-Yonhap


By Kim Yoo-chul

With a third wave of COVID-19 raising serious concerns over the shortage of hospital beds in the country, the government is planning to advance its first vaccination for front liners to late January, at the earliest possible date, according to local health authorities, Sunday.

Government officials contacted by The Korea Times said inoculations with a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca will begin late January. The country has already acquired an initial supply of around 25 million doses of the vaccine that is awaiting final approval for emergency use.

“Government officials are working on early vaccination. I would say despite some worries over the U.K.-based group’s vaccine in terms of efficacy, based on the amount of available doses the country has secured, the process could start from late January,” said an official asking for anonymity.

A few weeks ago, The Korea Times first reported that the administration had signed an agreement with AstraZeneca for a certain amount of the vaccine ― the Korean pharmaceutical company SK Bioscience is handling manufacture of the vaccine.

Early today, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in an interview with local broadcaster KBS that inoculation will begin with vaccines developed by AstraZeneca in the first quarter, as those developed by Pfizer and Janssen will not be available then as no “volume guarantee” had been reached so far.

“I expect the health authorities will authorize the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine early next year. Through the process, Korea will begin vaccination regardless of approval of the candidate by the USFDA,” Chung said. AstraZeneca was anticipating its vaccine could be available for use in the United Kingdom within the “next several weeks.”

The government official declined to specify terms of the contract, including the price agreed to with AstraZeneca, citing confidentiality.

Korea has recorded 49,665 COVID-19 infections as of Sunday morning, and the country also saw a record fifth straight day of more than 1,000 cases Saturday. The government is reportedly mulling over raising its social distancing measures to the highest Level 3 from the current 2.5, amid public calls for it to do so.

As SK Bioscience is manufacturing the Astra Zeneca vaccine here, the country is ideally suited to move forward with vaccinations. Various data from clinical trials has shown the vaccine is safe and effective against COVID-19, however, its efficacy is regarded as slightly lower than Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines.

“Despite the efficacy issue, AstraZeneca’s vaccine has the potential for a greater and wider reach than Pfizer and Moderna’s products as it is easier to transport and store,” according to the government official.

Published at Sun, 20 Dec 2020 06:42:00 +0000

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