September 21, 2020 13:05
Free flu vaccination begins on Tuesday for about 19 million people in one of the world's biggest campaigns of the kind. Priority will be given to small children and other vulnerable groups including the elderly.
Health authorities have increased the number of recipients of free vaccinations by 5 million for fear of a possible simultaneous spread of coronavirus and the seasonal flu. They will also be available for longer than usual.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Sunday said the government has enough stockpiles for more than half the population or 29.5 million people.
Some 19 million doses are will be administered free to designated groups and the rest for private clinics and hospitals.
It takes about two weeks after the jab for antibodies to develop, and they last for around six months, but less for the elderly. That is why free flu shots will be given to people over 75 from Oct. 13, to those between 70 and 74 from Oct. 20, and to those between 62 and 69 from Oct. 27, later than other groups. The entire program will be complete by Dec. 31.
Doctors have advised elderly people not to rush to get their free jabs early. If they do so, they can be vulnerable in the later winter months. Health authorities say that the best preventative measure is to wash hands thoroughly and wear a mask.
"Since the seasonal flu is less contagious than COVID-19, the flu won't be so rampant if we make sure to wash our hands and wear masks," said Ma Sang-hyuk of the South Gyeongsang Provincial Medical Association. "The best prevention against the flu is to comply with quarantine guidelines for coronavirus."
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