Second shots to soon commence, cases shoot back up
Korea kicked off Covid-19 vaccine reservations for the last group of people over 60 on Thursday, while the country’s Covid-19 cases shot up to 715, the highest since late April.
Reservations will be available for about 4,003,000 people aged 60 to 64, or those born from 1957 to 1961, along with some 364,000 first and second grade teachers and teachers at day care centers and kindergartens.
Those who wish to get their shot can make a reservation through the national vaccine registration website (ncvr.kdca.go.kr) until June 3. They can also sign up by calling the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA)'s 1339 hotline or by visiting a local community center.
This group comes after opening reservations for those aged 70 to 74, which opened last Thursday, and between 65 to 69 on Monday. All in this group will be administered the AstraZeneca vaccine.
According to the country’s Covid-19 vaccination task force, the booking rates as of Thursday stood at 51.7 percent for those aged 70 to 74 and at 38.4 percent for those aged 65 to 69.
Starting May 27, members of the general public aged 65 to 74 will be administered their jabs, followed by those aged 60 to 64 and teachers of younger children from June 7. The whole group aims to finish inoculation by June 19.
While the country continues rolling out reservations for the older population, members of the public who previously received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be eligible for their second dose from Friday.
Those who received their first AstraZeneca shots in or around February, including patients and workers at nursing homes and hospitals for the elderly under the age of 65, will be eligible for their second jab. The country estimates around 926,000 people are eligible for second their inoculation, which will be administered from May to June.
Health authorities added that people under 30, who received their first AstraZeneca shots before the age limit was imposed on the vaccine due to concerns over rare cases of blood clots, will also be eligible for their second dose. The second shot won't be made mandatory; however, they cannot get their second shot with a different vaccine, they said.
As of Thursday, a total of 3,711,023 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.
AstraZeneca's vaccine has been given to 2,036,649 people, while 1,674,374 received Pfizer's.
The government has been focusing on procuring more vaccines to speed up the vaccination campaign, which has been lagging in recent days due to vaccine shortages.
Early Wednesday, an additional batch of 438,000 Pfizer doses arrived in Korea.
The government secured a total of 66 million Pfizer doses, or enough to fully inoculate 33 million people, through a direct purchase deal, and 2.874 million doses for 1.437 million people have so far been received. A total of 7 million Pfizer doses are expected to be delivered by the first half of the year.
The country is also set to receive 835,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine secured through the Covax Facility, the World Health Organization's vaccine-sharing mechanism, on Thursday.
This is part of the total amount of 2.12 million AstraZeneca vaccines for 1.051 million people that are scheduled to be introduced in the first half of the year from the Covax Facility. So far, 432,000 doses have arrived.
The AstraZeneca vaccines received from the Covax Facility will be partially used for the second round of vaccinations starting from Friday, and the rest will be used for the first round of vaccinations for people aged 60 to 74, chronic severe respiratory patients, and teachers of younger children.
Meanwhile, U.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine passed the second stage of the three-stage government-civilian review process for use on Thursday.
After the pharmaceutical panel’s review, the next step is a final comprehensive review before the ministry gives the final approval to become the fourth company to be used in Korea — following AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
On Thursday, Korea’s daily new cases rebounded to over 700, the highest since April 28.
Korea reported 715 new Covid-19 infections, including 692 local infections, raising the total cases to 129,633, the KDCA said.
There were seven more fatalities, raising the total death toll to 1,891.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]