South Korea is reviewing AstraZeneca's request for approval of its coronavirus vaccine, as it expands a ban on private gatherings of more than four people to the whole country with daily cases topping more than 1-thousand in four days.
The drug safety ministry said it will aim to approve the British shot for emergency use in 40 days.
The approval would mark the first for the country, which has been grappling with a prolonged surge in infections during the latest wave that has led to a sharp increase in deaths.
Let's go in-depth. Joining us live in the studio is Dr. Alice Tan, Internist at MizMedi Women's Hospital and Arirang News' go-to medical expert.
Dr. Tan, welcome to the show.
First of all, let's talk about AstraZeneca's request for approval of its coronavirus vaccine. The drug safety ministry said will aim to approve the British shot for emergency use in 40 days.
Remind us once again the make up of this vaccine by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and what this news of its request for South Korea's approval means for this country's vaccination timeline?
South Korea signed a deal with AstraZeneca to secure 20 million doses of its vaccine in December, with the first shipment expected as early as January.
It also has deals with three other drugmakers - Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson's Janssen, Moderna and the global COVAX initiative. The country has secured enough doses to allow for coverage of 56 million people, more than the 52 million residents of the country.
Authorities plan to start vaccination in February, with health workers and vulnerable people first in line, but the government has been criticized for that schedule in light of vaccinations underway in the U.S. and the EU. What are your thoughts?
Kicking off the new year, more countries have inked vaccine contracts.
More than 12.3 million doses in 30 countries have been administered, and 4.3 million of those doses in the U.S.
Now, last Wednesday, a mistake was made at a clinic in West Virginia where 42 people were administered COVID-19 antibodies instead of the vaccine.
This Regeneron antibody product was used to treat COVID-19, even U.S. president Donald Trump.
Now state and local health officials don't think the 42 people are at any risk of harm
but what does this say for reviewing and improving the safety and process of vaccinations - in general, but also for countries like South Korea that's preparing its own vaccination program?
Over in the UK, the first to launch a vaccination program, their Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization suggested that "vaccinating a greater number of people with a single dose will prevent more deaths and hospitalizations than vaccinating a smaller number with two doses."
Accordingly, they've delayed the scheduling of the second dose from the original 4 weeks to 12 weeks
Is there information on the efficacy of the vaccine if the gap between injections is increased? Is this an okay risk to take?
Around 10 countries, including Pakistan, the UAE and Egypt, have signed vaccine deals with China's Sinofarm.
They're claiming 79-percent efficacy and that they fulfill the WHO standard of 50-percent efficacy.
How do you see their determination to join the competition of vaccine supplying? Do you see more countries be signing with them because an approved vaccine is better than no vaccine?
Over the weekend, health authorities extended the current Level 2.5 distancing measures for another 2 weeks - until January 17.
Since December 23, gatherings of five or more people have been banned and restaurants now face a fine if they seat more than four people together.
Taking into consideration that this period has included Christmas and new years, and we don't have any big occasions over the next 2 weeks
How is South Korea faring through the third wave without reaching Level 3 social distancing measures?
On Sunday, the government says recent strict measures added to the Level 2.5 have helped suppress the third wave from spreading further
This was based on the weekly average of daily new cases having dropped to 931.3 cases from the 1017 cases the week before.
Did they speak too soon? Or are they referring to the fact that this third wave could have been much worse?
Also worth noting is the number of daily deaths that have been hovering around 20 a day which leaves us a day away from the number of deaths reaching 1-thousand.
South Korea once had the lowest number of deaths from this coronavirus
Is this merely due to the fact that many of the recent cluster infections have been coming out of facilities, including nursing homes?
How do we bring these numbers back down?
Dr. Alice Tan, Internist at MizMedi Women's Hospital. Many thanks as always for speaking with us. We appreciate it.