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(LEAD) S. Korea decides to resume rollout of AstraZeneca vaccine

National 14:50 April 11, 2021

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SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Sunday decided to resume the rollout of administering AstraZeneca vaccines to eligible recipients after temporarily putting the program on hold amid growing concerns over its safety.

The use of AstraZeneca's vaccine will resume Monday, except for those aged 30 and below, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

"As the COVID-19 vaccines play a crucial role in reducing the number of serious cases and deaths, the rollout (of AstraZeneca's vaccine) should be resumed promptly," a special committee on vaccinations said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the country suspended the use of vaccines by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant and Oxford University for people under age 60, special education instructors and school nurses.

The delay came amid growing concerns over the link between the vaccine and unusual blood clot cases from home and abroad.

A day later, however, South Korea made a tentative decision to resume the inoculation program, citing the European Medicines Agency's statement, which claimed the benefits from the AstraZeneca vaccine still outweigh potential risks over side effects.

Following the latest decision to resume the inoculation program, those who have received the first jab of the two-part vaccine will receive the second shot as scheduled.

Authorities, however, said those aged below 30 were excluded, as the risks of suffering blood clots still outweigh the benefits of being vaccinated.

Senior citizens wait to receive COVID-19 vaccines at an inoculation center in eastern Seoul on April 9, 2021. (Yonhap)

The KDCA, meanwhile, said the country will bolster its monitoring of the side effects of vaccines and forge deeper ties with local medical institutions.

South Korea reported three cases of blood clots among recipients of AstraZeneca vaccines, with two of the patients in their 20s. The first case was reported last month from a woman in her 60s, who died after taking the AstraZeneca jab.

"While we have found three cases of blood clots so far, we have reached a conclusion that they cannot be considered as cases of side effects," KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong said, pointing out that the decision was made on scientific grounds.

Since the country started its vaccination program on Feb. 26, a total of 1,156,950 people have been given COVID-19 vaccine shots as of Sunday, including 8,710 the previous day.

AstraZeneca's vaccine has been given to 916,780 people, while 300,680 received that of Pfizer. The number of people who have received two doses came to 60,510.

The country plans to vaccinate 12 million people by the end of June with a goal of achieving herd immunity by November.

Authorities said its survey among recipients of the first jab showed that AstraZeneca's vaccine had an efficacy rate of 92.2 percent two weeks after inoculation, while that of Pfizer came to 100 percent.

colin@yna.co.kr
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