Vaccination to pick up pace next month

Vaccination to pick up pace next month

People are monitored for possible side effects after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Mapo District of Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap

By Lee Hyo-jin

Korea’s nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program is expected to pick up pace in October, as the government plans to expand inoculation to people who have yet to receive a single dose.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) announced Monday the inclusion of children aged between 12 and 17, along with pregnant women in its vaccination list for the fourth quarter.

Starting from Oct. 18, teenagers aged between 12 and 17, or those born between 2004 and 2009, will receive the Pfizer vaccine. The reservation system for children aged 16 and 17 will be open from Oct. 5 to 29, while appointments for those aged between 12 and 15 can be made from Oct. 18 through Nov. 12.

The government also plans to roll out the vaccinations for some 136,000 pregnant women from mid-October. They will be administered with mRNA vaccines ― Moderna and Pfizer.

Since the vaccination campaign kicked off on Feb.26, 38.09 million people, or 75 percent of the population have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 46 percent have been fully vaccinated as of Monday, according to the KDCA.

The government aims to fully vaccinate 80 percent of the adult population and 90 percent of the elderly population by the end of October.

In order to speed up the administration of second doses, health authorities have decided to shorten the interval between the two jabs.

In August, the government had stretched the dosing interval of the mRNA vaccines to six weeks, due to unstable supply.

But under the new policy, people who will receive their first doses of either Pfizer or Moderna in October can expect their second doses to be scheduled for four or five weeks later.

In addition, the government has decided to offer booster shots from Oct. 25, starting with high-risk groups, such as people aged over 60 and frontline COVID-19 medical personnel. They will be able to schedule their third shot from Oct. 5.

The authorities noted that individuals with weakened immune systems, including leukemia patients and people receiving immunosuppressive therapy, can get a booster shot two months after their final dose.

In line with the smooth vaccine rollout, Korea has begun to take bigger steps for a gradual transition to a “living with COVID-19” era.

More than a year and a half into the pandemic, calls have been rising here for the government to change its quarantine policy to focus more on treating severely ill patients, rather than concentrating on bringing down daily new infections.

In response, health authorities recently started reviewing a “live with COVID-19” strategy by gathering opinions from medical experts and analyzing cases overseas.

“In order to establish a public consensus (on the strategy), we will soon set up a committee consisting of experts from four sectors ― health, economy, education and culture,” Park Hyang, a senior health official said at a COVID-19 briefing, Tuesday.

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