Fourth vaccine doses offered to everyone over 59
Korea expanded the eligibility for fourth doses of Covid-19 vaccines to all people over the age of 59 starting Thursday.
“We decided to give a fourth round of Covid-19 vaccinations for the 60 and older age group to help prevent severe illness and deaths,” Jeong Eun-kyeong, commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said in a press briefing on Wednesday.
The task force “strongly advised” a fourth jab for people aged 80 or above.
All people aged 60 and above who received a third vaccine shot four months (120 days) ago or longer became eligible to receive fourth shots. This is about 10.66 million people in Korea. The third shot used to be called a booster shot.
The government started offering fourth shots on Feb. 14 to select groups including the immunocompromised and residents and employees of nursing hospitals and psychiatric hospitals.
Authorities have been cautious about expanding the eligibility for fourth doses, saying the benefits of a fourth inoculation are not great. But following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s approval of fourth vaccinations for people 50 and above on March 30, they reconsidered offering them to older groups.
Despite a recent gradual decline in Covid-19 cases, Korea continued to see 20 percent of total infections among its elderly. From April 3 to 9, people over the age of 59 accounted for 20.1 percent of total infections.
The elderly accounted for 80 to 90 percent of cases of severe illnesses and fatalities. People 60 or older accounted for 85.7 percent of severe cases and 94.4 percent of deaths in the past one week, authorities said.
Many people 60 or older received third vaccine shots last November and December. Authorities believe the effectiveness of those shots has waned after more than four months.
According to a study in Israel, which was the first country to roll out fourth doses, protection against infection appeared twice as high in the fourth-dose group compared to the third-dose group, while protection against severe disease was 3.5 times higher.
Reservations for fourth shots will available on the website (ncvr.kdca.go.kr) on April 18, and appointment dates can be selected from April 25.
They can also try for a so-called leftover vaccine, which will be available starting Thursday. Leftover vaccines can be found on Kakao or Naver, or by calling medical facilities and getting the vaccine on the same day.
Recipients will get an mRNA vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna, for their fourth shots, while Novavax is also an option.
Korea’s daily Covid-19 cases dipped below 200,000 on Wednesday amid continued signs of the Omicron wave receding.
It was the first time in seven weeks for a Wednesday figure to come down to the 100,000s, after hovering from 300,000 to 400,000 in previous weeks. Counts on Wednesdays tend to surge.
The number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients totaled 1,014 as of Tuesday midnight, a figure that is slowly decreasing after being in the 1,300s at the end of last month.
The number of fatalities, which hovered over 400 around then, came down to 184 on Wednesday.
As part of a continued move toward so-called normalcy, the government on Wednesday decided to end a special travel advisory that has been in effect since March 2020 and extended on a monthly basis.
“In consideration of the government's public health measures and global Covid-19 situations, we will lift the special travel advisory, and switch to the previous travel alert system for each country starting Thursday,” announced the Foreign Ministry.
Yet special travel advisories for 26 countries including China and Russia will remain in place, while travel alerts for Myanmar and Ukraine will be maintained at high levels — recommending citizens to leave Myanmar and banning travel completely to Ukraine.
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