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(LEAD) S. Korea approves AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine for all adults

All News 14:42 February 10, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info throughout)
By Kim Han-joo

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's drug safety agency on Wednesday approved the vaccine for the novel coronavirus by AstraZeneca for all adults, including those aged 65 and older, amid efficacy controversies.

The vaccine developed by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant and Oxford University is the first to be granted approval in the country, with inoculations expected to start on Feb. 26.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety approved AstraZeneca's two full-dose regimen on the condition that the pharmaceutical firm submit further data on the current phase three clinical trials on adults aged over 18.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety convenes a final review meeting on Feb. 10, 2021, to review the novel coronavirus vaccine by AstraZeneca. (Yonhap)

Still, the ministry cautioned against inoculating people aged 65 or older with the vaccine, after a separate review panel said earlier that there is not enough data on its efficacy for the age group.

Controversies arose globally on the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine for seniors as there is not enough data to back its efficacy in older people. Last week, the European Medicines Agency's expert committee unanimously recommended the vaccine to be used for people 18 and over.

However, several European countries, including Germany and France, have announced that they will restrict the vaccine to younger people and cautioned against its use for the elderly, citing insufficient data on its efficacy.

AstraZeneca will start delivering the first batch of 750,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to South Korea in phases from Feb. 24 over the following several days.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said around 776,900 people, including medical workers and patients at high-risk facilities such as sanatoriums, will receive their first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

In early January, the pharmaceutical company sought emergency use approval for its vaccine to be manufactured by SK Bioscience Co., a vaccine unit of South Korea's SK Group, at a factory in South Korea.

The vaccine is deemed more convenient for mass inoculations as its storage temperature is 2 to 8 C, compared to other vaccines by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna that require ultra-cold chain storage.

khj@yna.co.kr
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