Big day for South Korea today as the country launched its mass Covid-19 inoculation campaign 402 days since the first case of reported here on January 20th, 2020.
Shots were administered in some 200 nursing homes and public health centers nationwide in an effort that officials call the first step in returning the country to a more normal life.
The first doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine began to be given at 9 AM to nursing home workers and some patients at facilities across the country of about 52 million.
On Saturday, authorities plan to start giving 117-thousand doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech supplied through COVAX, an international COVID-19 vaccine-sharing program, to about 55-thousand healthcare workers in coronavirus treatment facilities.
South Korea's vaccination campaign, let's talk about it. I have in the studio with me Dr. Alice Tan, Internist at MizMedi Women's Hospital and Dr. Jung Ki-suck, Professor of Medicine at Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital.
Dr. Tan, Dr. Jung, thank you for joining us.
(DR. TAN/ DR .JUNG) Despite complaints over a slow start, and debate over the efficacy of AstraZeneca's vaccine for older people, surveys show wide interest among South Koreans in being vaccinated. Taking this into account, but also that South Korea is rather late in kicking off the inoculation campaign, what was your impression of day one?
(DR. TAN) Are there specific conditions to look out for when you are getting your Covid-19 vaccine? What are some common symptoms people experience after the inoculation?
In case of allergy reaction to the vaccine, what guidelines are there that people can follow and get the help they need?
(DR. JUNG) U.S. FDA approved storage and transportation of COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech at standard freezer temperatures for up to two weeks instead of ultra-cold conditions. What does this mean for vaccine providers?
(DR. TAN) Scientists at FDA also said a single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe with the efficacy of 66 percent. Now, with FDA's approval, will Johnson & Johnson's vaccine speed up the vaccine drive as an acceptable trade-off to other vaccines that require two doses?
(DR. TAN) Dr. Tan, you and I discussed this a few days ago, but South Korea has not, at the moment, implemented any internet based monitoring system for adverse events after Covid-19 vaccinations.
The U.S. has a cell phone app called V Safe specifically to monitor for side effects. Why do you think South Korea, with its edge in software development, hasn't adopted such system?
(DR. JUNG) Certificates of vaccination will be issued in both Korean and English, but KDCA Director Jung Eun-Kyeong said the so-called vaccine passport system will not be adopted what does this imply? Is it merely seen as not encouraging international travel?
(DR. TAN) On the other hand, KDCA announced that those who have gotten jabs for Covid-19 vaccines will be given a block-chain technology based digital certificate.
With this certificate, those who have been in close contact with Covid-19 patients after their jabs may be subject to modified preventive measures against Covid-19, such as changes in quarantine period and interval test dates.
How can we make sure that there is no loophole in our preventive measures against the pandemic until we inoculate a certain level of our population?
(DR. JUNG) How do you see South Korea's goal of achieving herd immunity by November? What needs to happen for that goal to be reached or is that timeline an absolute must?
Dr. Alice Tan, Dr. Jung Ki-suck, many thanks as always for your insights this evening. We appreciate it.