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AZ vaccine unexpectedly catching on among 30s, 40s

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An individual receives a coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Dongjak District, Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap
An individual receives a coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Dongjak District, Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap

By Lee Hyo-jin

Many people in their 30s and 40s are snatching up leftover AstraZeneca vaccines, after the government recently revised the age limit for the vaccine, defying earlier expectations that they would shun the product due to concerns over the risk of side effects.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) lowered the minimum age of eligibility for the vaccine to 30, Aug. 13, a change from its previous policy that made it available only to people aged over 50, due to concerns it may cause blood clots in a small number of recipients.

It explained the decision as a measure to use leftover doses effectively, as well as to give more opportunities to individuals who wish to be vaccinated ahead of their inoculation schedule.

The health authorities also noted that only three people among 12.69 million administered cases of AstraZeneca here were officially confirmed to have suffered from thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), one of whom died.

Contrary to expectations that younger people would be reluctant to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine due to concerns over the rare but severe side effect, the leftover doses were fully booked immediately after online reservations were expanded to people in their 30s and 40s.

On Tuesday, a total of 11,651 people were administered with a leftover AstraZeneca dose, of whom 86 percent were aged between 30 and 49, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The Korean Medical Association, the largest doctors' group in the country, expressed deep concerns over the government's decision to lower the age ceiling, insisting that the severity of possible side effects should not be downplayed.

"A recent study published in the medical journal Lancet showed that among the people administered with AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, the rate of systemic side effects were higher among those aged under 55, and the ratio of side effects to the inoculation rate was significantly higher in AstraZeneca vaccines," it said, calling for further discussions on the adjustment of the age limit.

"Considering the potential side effects, people who have their appointment fixed for an mRNA vaccine ― Pfizer or Moderna ― in coming weeks should wait for it, rather than choosing to get a leftover AstraZeneca shot now," said Chon Eun-mi, a professor at Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital.

She explained that, as the AstraZeneca vaccine is administered with a longer interval between the two doses than the mRNA vaccines, getting a first dose of AstraZeneca earlier does not necessarily mean the individual will be fully vaccinated ahead of the inoculation schedule.



Lee Hyo-jin lhj@koreatimes.co.kr


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