SEOUL, South Korea (South Korea) – South Korea on Friday took advantage of its first available shot of coronavirus vaccine in people in long-term care facilities, launching a mass immunization campaign that health officials hope will restore some normalcy by the end of the year.
The spread of vaccines comes at a critical time for a country that has seen its heavy gains against the virus disappear from winter growth and struggles to mitigate the economic shock of the epidemic that has crippled service jobs. Vaccinations began shortly before the country reported 406 cases of coronavirus, bringing its burden to 88,922, including 1,585 deaths.
“I used to feel very anxious over the past year, but now I feel safer after receiving the vaccine,” said Lee Gyeong-shon, a 61-year-old nursing home worker who spoke to reporters after receiving a shot at public health. center in the north of Seoul. Residents of long-term care for people with mobility problems received injections from a visit to a health care provider at their facility.
More than 5,260 residents of 213 nursing homes, mental institutions and rehabilitation centers under the age of 65 were due to receive their first shots of the two-dose vaccine developed by AstraZeneca և University of Oxford on Friday.
According to officials from the Korea Agency for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine will also be given to an indefinite number of staff in 292 long-term care hospitals, including patients of the same age group.
Health officials plan to complete the first dose injection of some 344,000 residents in long-term care facilities and 55,000 primary care workers by the end of March.
“We have taken the historic first step in restoring normalcy,” Health Ministry spokesman Son Yang-ri told a briefing.
He said the government had decided to extend the current level of social distance by at least two weeks, tightening private social gatherings of more than five people and banning closed meals after 10pm to help create a safe vaccination environment.
Long-term care facilities, where elders or people with serious health problems often live in crowded places, have experienced the worst outbreak in South Korea. About 35% of the country’s COVID-19 deaths were linked to those facilities by the end of 2020, said Ehun Ahung Jung, a professor of preventive medicine at Incheon Gacho University Medical College.
But there has been criticism of the government’s decision to delay the approval of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines for people over the age of 65 until developers provide more data suggesting the shooting will be effective in that age group.
Some experts, including Jung, say the decision threatens the safety of people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, when the country will rely heavily on locally produced Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines at the start of its vaccination campaign.
Despite the fact that the government considers the lack of laboratory data on its effectiveness in the elderly, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine still shows real effectiveness in preventing diseases and reducing the mortality rate where it was used, experts say. Jung says people over the age of 80 make up only 5% of coronavirus cases in the country, but 56% of virus-related deaths.
Using refrigerated trucks accompanied by police and military vehicles, South Korea shipped 1.57 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines across the country from Wednesday to Thursday. The footage is part of a global stockpile of production in the southern city of Andong, where local pharmaceutical company SK Bioscience manufactures vaccines under a contract with AstraZeneca.
Individually, physicians, nurses այլ other healthcare professionals treating COVID-19 patients will start receiving staff from Pfizer և BioNTech from Saturday. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which South Korea acquired through the WHO-sponsored COVAX program, arrived at Incheon International Airport on Friday and will be transported to five major COVID-19 treatment hospitals.
South Korea plans to complete the first doses in March of its estimated 344,000 residents, long-term care staff, including mental health centers, rehabilitation centers, and 55,000 front-line health workers.
The next available vaccines are likely to be targeted at general hospital staff, paramedics, quarantine staff և over 65, while larger groups of adults will start shooting in the summer.
South Korea plans to provide sufficient doses to vaccinate 79 million people this year, more than its 51 million people, through bilateral talks with pharmaceutical companies COVAX to boost global vaccine availability.
Although disappointed, the shooting did not come sooner, officials say, South Korea can afford to wait and see, because its outbreak is not as terrible as in America or Europe.
Officials plan to vaccinate more than 70% of the population by November, which they hope will significantly slow down the virus, reduce the risks of economic and social activities.
However, experts note that a safe return to life without masks this year will be very unlikely this year, given the need to monitor the true effectiveness of vaccines և the growing prevalence of viral variants that are feared to be more contagious.
“Even if we achieve the government’s goal by November, we will probably not be able to (immediately) return until COVID-19,” said Choi Won Sook, a professor of infectious disease at Korea University’s Ansan Hospital, west of Seoul.
“But if we maintain a certain level of social distance by wearing vaccines, there will come a time when we would no longer be seriously worried about the mass wave of the virus,” which will allow us to have a certain socio-economic level. activities, he said.