Korea churns out vaccines for 60+ hoping to slash fatality rates

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Korea churns out vaccines for 60+ hoping to slash fatality rates

Senior citizens wait for any possible adverse reactions after receiving Pfizer shots at a Covid-19 vaccination center in Seongbuk District, central Seoul, on Tuesday. [NEWS1]

Senior citizens wait for any possible adverse reactions after receiving Pfizer shots at a Covid-19 vaccination center in Seongbuk District, central Seoul, on Tuesday. [NEWS1]

 
The government projected that the number of Covid-19 deaths and serious cases will decrease sharply after vaccination for the older population wraps up in the first half of the year.
 
"We expect the number of deaths and serious cases to drop significantly from July since there will be few such cases among the elderly who have been vaccinated," Sohn Young-rae, a senior health official of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, said during a Tuesday briefing.
 
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said vaccines have shown to be at least 86.6 percent effective even after just one dose was given for people over 60. Pfizer’s vaccine was 89.7 effective in preventing infection at least two weeks after a first dose was given, while the AstraZeneca shot was 86 percent effective.
 
"Many studies have shown that the efficacy rate is 86 percent even if only vaccinated once, so I’m asking senior citizens not to avoid vaccination for their own health and safety," Sohn said.
 
He added, "Quarantine measures will most likely be eased after July, so the risk of infection for the elderly who haven’t been vaccinated will still remain."
 
According to the KDCA, the number of Covid-19 patients in their 60s or older accounted for 26.9 percent of the total, but the number people who have died of Covid-19 in the same age group accounted for over 95 percent.
 
The group's fatality rate comes out to 5.23 percent, or about five per 100 people. The overall fatality rate is 1.47 percent.
 
Starting Thursday, Korea will accept Covid-19 vaccine reservations for the last group of older citizens, those aged 60 to 64. This follows reservations for those between 70 to 74 which opened last Thursday and between 65 to 69 on Monday. All will be getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.
 
Health authorities decided to expand the age group eligible for inoculations in the first half of the year to also include those between 60 and 64 in order to reduce the more vulnerable group's risk of contracting Covid-19. The initial target age group was 65 to 74.
 
Starting May 27, people aged 65 to 74 will be administered their jabs, followed by those aged 60 to 64 from June 7. The whole group aims to finish inoculation by June 19.
 
Vaccinations for those over 75 started from April 1 with the Pfizer vaccine.
 
As of Tuesday, a total of 3,692,566 people, or 7.2 percent of Korea’s population, had received one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine since the vaccination program began on Feb. 26.
 
 
Korea reported 511 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, including 483 local infections, raising the total caseload to 128,283, the KDCA said.
 
There were four more fatalities, raising the total death toll to 1,879.
 
BY SEO JI-EUN   [seo.jieun1@joongang.co.kr]
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