SEOUL, March 8 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea’s health authorities are likely to approve AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 65 and older this week following the publication of new data overseas showing effectiveness.
An independent panel under the health ministry has concluded that the AstraZeneca vaccine is OK for older people, following in the footsteps of several European countries that reversed decisions on the two-dose regimen developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University for people over the age of 65, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) on Monday.
The KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong said that the panel’s decision was based on data released in England and Scotland, where the product is already being rolled out for the age group.
Last week, British health authorities announced that AstraZeneca vaccines are more than 80 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations from the COVID-19 virus in those over 80 after one dose of the shot.
On Feb. 26, South Korea began its long-awaited inoculation program with AstraZeneca vaccines, with health care workers and patients aged under 65 at long-term care facilities among the first in line.
The inoculation with AstraZeneca vaccine, however, has excluded those aged 65 or older despite the drug safety agency’s approval, as there is lack of data backing the efficacy for the age group.
An accumulated 315,865 people have been administered with their first shots over the past 10 days. Among them, 81.3 percent of inoculation priority groups for AstraZeneca’s vaccine have been inoculated, according to the KDCA.
Jeong said the KDCA will hold a meeting soon to decide whether to give the final nod for use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the age group.
The approval could speed up the country’s inoculation campaign, which includes administering the first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines to around 370,000 health care workers and patients aged over 65 at sanatoriums, nursing facilities and rehabilitation facilities
The country added 346 more COVID-19 cases Monday, returning to below 400, with the total caseload at 92,817, the KDCA said.