|Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Commissioner (KDCA) Jeong Eun-kyeong appears at a hearing at the National Assembly, Wednesday. Yonhap|
By Do Je-hae
Concerns are rising again over the safety of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, as a suspected case of blood clotting after inoculation has been reported here, following dozens of similar cases in Europe.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said AstraZeneca vaccine injections will continue since no causal relation between the vaccine and the symptom has been confirmed. But concerned citizens could choose to avoid receiving injections, hindering the vaccination schedule and the government's plan to achieve herd immunity by November.
According to the KDCA, Wednesday, one suspected death was reported due to blood clotting following an AstraZeneca vaccine injection. The person, a woman in her 60s who had been at a nursing home, died on March 6 after receiving an AstraZeneca vaccine shot on Feb. 26. An initial autopsy showed she had developed blood clots.
The latest fatality comes amid dozens of deaths from blood clots following AstraZeneca vaccine injections in several European countries, leading to the suspension of the product as a preemptive measure until further studies are conducted.
"We have one report (about blood clots) and plan to review the case," KDCA Commissioner Jeong said during a session at the National Assembly's Health and Welfare Committee.
"We concluded that there was no relationship between the death and the vaccine because medical records also suggest other causes of death," another health official said during an online briefing, adding the death may have been caused by pneumonia and acute cardiac arrest.
However, the government said there was no reason to stop administering the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"It's okay to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Officials at the KDCA are also getting injected (with the vaccine)," Jeong said, underscoring its safety.
Since March 10, 127 KDCA officials have been vaccinated and others, including Jeong, will also receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Jeong said that closely monitoring the cases in Europe. "We are analyzing cases in Europe. A co-relation between the vaccine and the blood clots has yet to be verified. We will continue to monitor adverse effects of the vaccine."
Recently, more than 20 countries have temporarily suspended AstraZeneca vaccine injections following cases of blood clots and deaths after receiving the vaccine shots have been reported in Austria and Italy, among other countries.
Continued reports about the side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine are raising concerns about the government's vaccination plan, as more and more people are feeling jittery about the drug.
The Pfizer vaccine, which is scheduled to be administered in the second quarter of this year, will be brought into Korea March 24. Of the 1 million individual contracted Pfizer vaccines, 500,000 will arrive first on March 24 and will be administered to people aged over 75 starting April 1. An additional 690,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses are expected to arrive in Korea in early April to inoculate people aged 65 and older.
"We will make every effort to distribute, store, and prepare in advance after the arrival of the vaccine in Korea so that the implementation plan for vaccination in the second quarter can begin safely and quickly," Jeong said.