Expired Pfizer jabs accidentally administered to 140 people
Around 140 people received expired Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines at a general hospital in Seoul last week, health officials said Saturday.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) is considering whether to vaccinate the recipients again, as the vaccines in question may not effectively protect against the virus.
According to the health authorities, Korea University Guro Hospital in western Seoul administered some 140 people with Pfizer doses that came close to or exceeded their expiration dates after having being thawed for use on Aug. 26 to 27.
Once thawed, unopened vials of the Pfizer vaccine can be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (35 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to 31 days.
According to the local health center in Guro District, western Seoul, Korea University Guro Hospital used thawed vaccines that expired on Aug. 20 or Aug. 26.
Many were receiving their first shot.
The hospital discovered the mistake last Friday and reported it to the district health center at 5 p.m. on the same day, the health center said.
"We discovered that you have been inoculated with a vaccine that was close to or had slightly passed its expiration date after thawing,” Korea University Guro Hospital said in a text they sent out to the vaccine recipients in the afternoon on Aug. 3.
“Although there are no safety concerns, there are concerns that they may not provide sufficient immunity, and the KDCA will decide whether to revaccinate or not,” the hospital said.
Despite the assurance there would be no safety concerns, Yonhap News reported that some individuals who had received these shots visited the emergency room later with complaints of abnormal reactions.
“We will conduct thorough internal inspections, supervision and instruction to prevent a recurrence," an official from Korea University Guro Hospital said.
Meanwhile, another batch of 1.263 million Moderna doses arrived at Incheon International Airport at 4:25 p.m. Sunday, which is part of 7 million doses scheduled to land by Sunday.
The U.S. pharmaceutical company announced last month that it will send 7.01 million doses of its vaccine by Sept. 5, after a Korean government delegation flew to the company's headquarters in Massachusetts on Aug. 13 to complain about the supply disruption.
After the first batch of 1.017 million doses arrived on Aug. 23, the drug firm sent 1.021 million doses last Thursday and 905,000 doses last Friday.
A total of 4.206 million Moderna doses have been shipped thus far, including Sunday’s arrival, and the country is still waiting to receive 2.804 million more doses.
Health authorities earlier mentioned there is a possibility that some may arrive after the weekend, while hinting that Moderna's deliveries could be more than the announced amount.
From Monday, the country will again extend its social distancing restrictions, but with a few modifications.
According to the government, Level 4 social distancing measures in the greater Seoul area and Level 3 in other parts will remain in force through Oct. 3. All restaurants, cafes, noraebang (singing rooms), theaters, gyms, PC bang (PC rooms) and hagwon (cram schools) in the Level 4 areas will again be allowed to operate until 10 p.m. from the previous 9 p.m., the same as in areas under Level 3.
Gathering limits for wedding venues, which have been a target of criticism as many couples have had to hold their ceremonies as scheduled with empty seats, have been slightly eased to allow up to 99 people from 49 people, if no meals are provided.
In addition, the country added new vaccine incentives for people who have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks.
Currently in Level 4 areas, private gatherings of up to four people are allowed until 6 p.m., and only two people can gather after 6 p.m. Level 3 bans gatherings of more than four people throughout the day.
With the new incentives, however, private gatherings of up to six people will be allowed at cafes, restaurants and homes in Level 4 areas, but only if the groups include at least two fully vaccinated people before 6 p.m. and four fully vaccinated people after 6 p.m.
In Level 3 areas, private gatherings of up to eight people will be allowed throughout the day, if the groups include at least four fully vaccinated people.
During the week of the Chuseok harvest holidays, from Sept. 17 to 23, families throughout the country will be allowed to gather in groups of up to eight people, if the groups include at least four fully vaccinated members. Families meeting in the greater Seoul area are allowed to gather in these larger groups only in homes, while there are no similar restrictions for non-capital regions.
Another change applies to nursing homes, which were not allowing in-person visits by relatives under Level 4.
From Sept. 13 to 26, patients and visitors will be allowed to meet face-to-face if both are fully vaccinated. If either is not fully vaccinated, they will have to communicate through windows or a device to keep them socially distant.
Six more virus deaths were added, bringing the death toll to 2,321.
BY SEO JI-EUN [email@example.com]