January 26, 2023 12:46
Health authorities are considering annual COVID vaccinations to Koreans like flu shots. The news comes after similar proposals by the U.S.' Federal Drug Administration and some European countries with high vaccination rates like Italy.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Wednesday, the shift in the COVID vaccine policy will allow healthy adults to get their jabs once each year and high-risk groups such as the elderly and immunodepressed twice a year.
Only high-risk groups will be eligible for free vaccinations on a long-term basis. Annual COVID shots will likely be given from September each year alongside annual flu shots to prepare for a surge of infections in winter.
Kim Tak of Soonchunhyang University said, "Immunity from a booster shot can last from six to 12 months now a considerable number of people have already acquired immunity either through vaccination or infection."
The new policy aims to boost the vaccination rate, which has stagnated. The uptake for winter boosters that began last October is a mere 12.7 percent, with only three in 10 elderly people getting a shot.
High-risk groups are also complaining about vaccine fatigue now they have to get a shot every six months.
Authorities believe there is little chance of a new deadly variant developing.
Eom Joong-sik of Gachon University's Gil Medical Center said, "We'll still have to watch the situation in China, but it's unlikely that a new powerful variant like Omicron will lead to a massive COVID surge."
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