Korea aims to fully vaccinate 80 percent of its adult population and 90 percent of the elderly population aged 60 and older by the end of October, in preparation for a gradual shift to a “live with COVID-19” era.
The COVID-19 Vaccination Task Force, under the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), unveiled its inoculation plan for the fourth quarter Monday, which includes the inoculation of children aged between 12 and 17, along with pregnant women.
The health authorities plan to increase the rate of fully vaccinated individuals aged 18 and older to 80 percent, up from the current 53 percent; and fully immunize 90 percent of the elderly population by then, up from current 87 percent.
As part of its efforts to speed up the administration of second doses, the government has decided to shorten the dosing interval for mRNA vaccines ― Pfizer and Moderna ― from the current six weeks.
People who have their second shots scheduled for between Oct. 11 and Nov. 7 will receive them a week earlier than initially scheduled. Those who have their second doses fixed between Nov. 8 and 14 will receive them two weeks earlier.
Individuals who are set to receive their first shots in October will be able to get their second doses three weeks after a Pfizer vaccination and four weeks after a Moderna one.
Beginning from Oct. 18, over 2.77 million children aged between 12 and 17, or those born between 2004 and 2009, will be administered with the Pfizer vaccine.
The government has decided to include the minors on its vaccination list following a recommendation by the Korea Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which decided the Pfizer vaccine had proven to be safe for use for the age group in various countries including the United States and Japan.
The authorities noted that the vaccination of children was not mandatory, and parents will be given the choice.
Pregnant women, who are categorized as high-risk group for COVID-19 as they have a higher risk of developing a critical illness if infected, will be given an mRNA vaccine, also from Oct. 18.
Through consultations with the Korean Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology and reviews of cases in other countries such as the U.S. and the United Kingdom, the vaccination taskforce concluded that the vaccines were safe for pregnant women.
But the health authorities recommended women suffering from chronic diseases, or those in the early stages of pregnancy of less than 12 weeks, consult a doctor before receiving the vaccine.
The government also announced that it will begin offering booster shots for high risk people, including those aged 60 and older, along with medical workers, from Nov. 1.
Meanwhile, the government is trying to encourage unvaccinated people, who have not made a reservation even after the inoculation has been expanded to all citizens aged 18 and older, to receive shots in October.
According to the KDCA, around 5.77 million eligible recipients have not received a single dose.
The KDCA is receiving reservations for unvaccinated people from Sept.18, saying that they would not be given a second opportunity after the reservation closes Sept. 30.
But the reservation rate among those people still remains low at around 4 percent, as of Sunday.