Vials of the Pfizer vaccine are pictured in a vaccination centre in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 3. (Reuters-Yonhap)
South Korean regulatory authorities said Tuesday that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was safe and effective across all age groups, including adults aged 65 or above and children as young as 16.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety’s director general for biopharmaceuticals Kim Sang-bong told a news briefing the preliminary review has found the vaccine to be 95 percent effective overall, and nearly equally effective for older and frail people.
Kim said so far the ministry sees the vaccine to be advisable for use for people 16 years of age or older, although its final decision would be announced on Friday.
The interim announcement is in line with regulators in US, EU, UK, Japan and other countries that authorized the Pfizer vaccine for those 16 or older.
Korea will be administering the AstraZeneca jabs to nursing home workers and residents under 65 from Friday, and the COVAX-supplied Pfizer jabs to front-line health care workers from Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Welfare told a news briefing held the same day that Korea was “highly likely to see another flare-up in infections.”
The ministry’s spokesperson Son Young-rae said social distancing regulations, which have been relaxed since last week, might need to be restored again next week. “Whether to tighten social distancing will be announced Friday or Saturday,” he said.
Workplaces have recently spawned some of the larger clusters of infections, the ministry said. Out of the 71 such clusters identified over the last two weeks, 14 involved factories where a high proportion of the workforce were migrant workers. Close to 70 percent of cases linked to these factories were migrant workers.
The ministry said epidemiological investigations have revealed poor compliance at the workplaces, with ventilation, face mask-wearing and other safety precautions.
Korea announced 357 cases and 11 deaths on Tuesday. The pandemic has so far sickened 87,681 and killed 1,572 here.
By Kim Arin (email@example.com