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South Korea approves AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for use

Published on 10/02/21 at 11:53am

South Korea is to grant first approval for the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine later today, with the rollout expected to start as early as February 26.

The East Asian country, which has ordered 1.5 million doses in order to vaccinate 750,000 people, will offer nursing home staff and patients the vaccine first. This may include over-65s, despite several European countries questioning the efficacy of the shot in the demographic, in particular when combatting the British and South African variants of the disease.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency will decide whether to vaccinate the group in conjunction with two panels, on COVID-19 and vaccination.

The agency is also waiting on the results of AstraZeneca’s study in the US, which will survey 30,000 people, including 7,500 over-65s. The ministry have asked to receive the outcome of the trial by April.

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-Lip told a news conference that the vaccine would be given emergency authorisation as long as AstraZeneca submitted its trial results, but added: “We have added a precautionary line for cautious decision for use of the shots [in] the elderly aged 65 and older.”

South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety are required to give final approval at a meeting today.

The South Korean government have also ordered 120,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, although this is not expected to arrive until late February or early March. The Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine is available sooner due to the company’s agreement with local company SK Bioscience, who are manufacturing the shot in the country themselves.

The country hopes to have vaccinated 10 million people by July, with the expectation that herd immunity will be achieved by November.

South Korea reported 443 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. 1,486 people have reportedly died from the virus in the country.

Jack Goddard

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