S. Korea injects first shots in public vaccination campaign
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea on Friday administered its first available shots of coronavirus vaccines to people at long-term care facilities, launching a mass immunization campaign that health authorities hope will restore some level of normalcy by the end of the year.
The rollout of vaccines come at a critical time for the country, which has seen its hard-won gains against the virus get wiped out by a winter surge and is struggling to mitigate the pandemic’s economic shock that decimated service sector jobs. The vaccinations began shortly before the country reported another new 406 cases of the coronavirus, brining its caseload to 88,922, including 1,585 deaths.
More than 5,260 residents and workers at 213 nursing homes, mental institutions and rehab centers who are under the age of 65 will receive their first shots of a two-dose vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Friday.
An unspecified number of patients and workers at 292 long-term care hospitals in the same age group will also get the vaccine, according to officials at the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
Health authorities plan to complete injecting the first doses to some 344,000 residents and workers at long-term care settings and 55,000 frontline medical workers by the end of March.
Long-term care facilities, where elders or people with serious health problems often live in crowded settings, have endured the worst of South Korea’s outbreak. About 35% of the country’s COVID-19 deaths at the end of 2020 were linked to these facilities, said Jaehun Jung, a professor of preventive medicine at the Gachon University College of Medicine in Incheon.
But there’s criticism over the government’s decision to delay the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines for people over 65 until the developers provide more...