April 09, 2021 12:01
The government is in disarray over growing evidence that AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine is linked to rare blood clots in younger recipients.
After announcing on Wednesday that it is suspending AstraZeneca jabs for over-60s, the government on Thursday seemed to suggest that the original schedule is back on track.
Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said, "I believe that the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency will resume inoculations" after reviewing the opinions of experts.
The U-turn came after the European Medicines Agency on Wednesday said the benefits of AstraZeneca jabs are far greater than the risk of blood clots.
The government relies entirely on the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines until June. It planned to give AstraZeneca shots to 7.7 million out of the 12 million target recipients from April to June, and a big hole would open up in its plans if it cannot be used for under-60s.
Eleven European countries have now introduced age limits for AstraZeneca vaccination.
The U.K. has decided to limit AstraZeneca jabs to people over 30, Germany and Italy to over-60s, and France to people over 55. Spain will only give it to people between 60 and 65 and Belgium to over-55s for four weeks.
In Korea, there are slim hopes of securing enough Janssen and Moderna vaccines in the second quarter, and Novavax vaccines are not expected until June.
In the U.S., Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, "My general feeling is that... we have enough vaccine to fulfill all of our needs without invoking AstraZeneca."
But Korea has no other option amid growing distrust of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Chun Eun-mi of Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital said, "The government should even now make all-out efforts to secure more vaccine supplies."
Kim Woo-joo of Korea University said, "If the government is resuming AstraZeneca vaccination only a day after suspending it for over-60s, there's going to be even more confusion."
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