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The 60-64 Age Group Is Included in the Q2 Vaccination Plan, with People under 30 to Receive Pfizer Shots

  • Date : 2021-05-12
  • Hit : 3759

The 60-64 Age Group Is Included in the Q2 Vaccination Plan, with People under 30 to Receive Pfizer Shots

- To achieve 13 million vaccinations by June by delivering 18.32 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines -
- To diversify infection control measures reflecting the vaccination status and reinforce the monitoring of high-risk countries with coronavirus variant infections reported -
- To provide across-the-board support for the domestic development and production of COVID-19 vaccines (including Phase 3 clinical trials) and for the local production and sourcing of raw and secondary vaccine ingredients -
□ President Moon Jae-in presided over the second special infection control examination meeting for COVID-19, which was held at 14:00 at Yeomin Hall 1 of Cheong Wa Dae.

○ President Moon checked infection control measures updates, the vaccination plan after May, measures to achieve 12 million + α vaccinations within the first half, and the May-June COVID-19 vaccine delivery plan and domestic vaccine development support measures with the heads of the Ministry of Economy and Finance; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of the Interior and Safety; Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy; Ministry of Health and Welfare; Office for Government Policy Coordination; Ministry of Food and Drug Safety; and Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency present.

1. Infection Control Measures Updates

□ Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (headed by Jeong Eun-kyeong) shared infection control measures updates at the meeting.

□ The third wave, which began in November last year, hit its peak in the fourth week of December (1,016.4 daily new cases nationwide). Since mid-January, the number of daily new cases had remained in the 400 range.

○ However, since the easing of social distancing on February 15, the number of daily infections has been increasing.

* (5th week of March) 477.3 confirmed cases → (1st week of April) 579.3 confirmed cases → (2nd week of April) 621.1 confirmed cases → (3rd week of April) 659.1 confirmed cases → (4th week of April) 597.1 confirmed cases

○ A surge in COVID-19 cases in non-metropolitan areas, especially Gyeongsangnam-do, is occurring. The number of new cases in the metropolitan area increased by 31.9% compared to March, while that of non-metropolitan areas rose by 82.3% compared to March.

○ Infections at sanatoriums, senior care facilities, and healthcare institutions appeared to subside slightly after the initiation of vaccinations but has recently regained an upward curve. New cases of infections at facilities frequented by large groups of people such as restaurants, public saunas, and churches have continued to rise.

○ This trend can be attributed to three main factors. First, with the prolonged third wave, mild and asymptomatic cases have accumulated and are serving as the source of community-spread infections.

- Second, the transmission of the virus has continued through diverse facilities frequented by large groups of people since the easing of social distancing (February 15) and the lifting of the restriction on opening hours of entertainment establishments in non-metropolitan areas (March 15).

- Third, the mutation of the coronavirus continues to pose a threat. A mere 5% of the cases infected due to domestic community spread are identified to have coronavirus variants, whereas over 50% of infected inbound travelers are found to have coronavirus variants.

* Coronavirus variant infections: 632 cases (551 cases of the UK variant, 71 cases of the South Africa variant, and 10 cases of the Brazil variant)
* (Variant infection rates) Imported cases: 22.4% (2nd week of January) → 58.9% (5th week of March) / Community spread: 6.4% (3rd week of February) → 4.3% (5th week of March)

□ It is anticipated that movement between different areas will notably increase due to gatherings celebrating Children’s Day and Parents’ Day in May, thus driving up the risk of COVID-19 infection.

* Movement during the weekend (April 24-25, 2021) reached 69.95 million cases, nearing the level seen right before the third wave in early November (74.03 million cases, November 14-15, 2020).

○ Infection control authorities will prioritize the implementation of the COVID-19 Infection Control Strategy released on April 12 to curb the current rise in the number of confirmed cases.

- In particular, the focus will be placed on blocking the entry of coronavirus variants (including the India variant), providing support for areas experiencing a drastic surge, and taking advance steps for the likely increase in movement in celebration of the “Family Month” of May.

󰊱 Ensuring No Setbacks in the Implementation of Existing Measures

□ The government plans to continually perform preemptive diagnostic testing for high-risk facilities (senior care facilities, women’s shelters, etc.) and groups, while also ensuring greater diagnostic testing efficiency for facilities particularly vulnerable to infection based on the vaccination rate. The government will also expand preemptive diagnostic testing in accordance with demand from local governments.

○ Diagnostic tests are offered free of charge at screening stations of public health centers regardless of the presence of symptoms and epidemiological relevance (April 9 onwards).

- Those visiting screening stations of healthcare institutions based on the recommendation of a physician or pharmacist are exempt from related expenses such as physician consultations (April 30 onwards), and the coverage of National Health Insurance for diagnostic testing of hospitalized patients has been expanded (April 23 onwards).

- Two types of home-test kits, which gained conditional approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (April 23), are being distributed along with a guide* (April 29 onwards) to allow more people to easily and readily identify their status.

* The guide specifies precautions for use and the steps to be taken if testing positive.

○ To reduce the development of severe conditions and a rising death toll among high-risk groups, the government also actively distributed antibody therapies*. The government plans to step up its efforts to manage the rate of severely and critically ill patients and the mortality rate with the expansion of the groups eligible for first-half vaccination (60-64 age group added).

* 8th week (79) → 11th week (162) → 14th week (279) → 17th week (415)〔2,437 in cumulative sum as of May 1〕
** 86.8% of all deaths and severely and critically ill patients in relation to COVID-19 are aged 60 and above.

󰊲 Points of Focus for Infection Control in May

□ Infection control measures for high-risk countries with coronavirus variant infections are reinforced.

○ Inbound travelers from South Africa and Tanzania are quarantined at temporary living facilities (April 22 onwards). Even fully vaccinated domestic residents* are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon entry from countries with surges in South Africa and Brazil variant infections reported**.

* Refer to the Agency’s press release dated April 29 and entitled “Guidelines on the Management of Fully Vaccinated People Are Prepared”.
** (Countries with surges in South Africa and Brazil variant infections reported in May) South Africa, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Brazil, Surinam, Paraguay, and Tanzania (as of April 23)

- Infection control for inbound travelers from India, where the case count continues to soar, has been reinforced. The airplane seat occupancy rate should be kept at no more than 60% (April 23 onwards), and all inbound travelers, regardless of nationality, are required to undergo testing and be placed under self-quarantine or facility-quarantine (April 29 onwards).

○ To reinforce the monitoring of coronavirus variant infections, the screening test method will be shared with metropolitan city and provincial Health and Environment Institutes (May), and the criteria for contact will be expanded for coronavirus variant-induced cluster infections, with daily activity contacts subject to diagnostic testing before being released from quarantine.

- The infectivity and severity of and vaccine effectiveness against major variants will be analyzed in depth to come up with scientifically verified response measures.

○ The Agency is taking enhanced measures for Ulsan, where UK variant infections have been identified, in cooperation with the local government.

- The central government’s epidemiological investigation officials will be dispatched to the site, and the number of temporary screening stations will be increased (3 → 10). Also, the administrative order for diagnostic testing (May 3-14) will be issued to those subject to testing recommendation among the visitors to healthcare institutions and pharmacies, and diagnostic tests for coronavirus variants will be further expanded.

□ Special measures will be taken for areas of resurgence through enhanced infection control guidelines and cooperation with local governments.

○ Areas showing signs of resurgence will be subject to enhanced infection control (upward adjustment of social distancing, expansion of preemptive diagnostic testing, etc.). Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency will regularly select areas of focused management and join forces with the local governments in charge to ensure a joint response.

□ Infection control will be tightened throughout the “Family Month” of May.

○ The current social distancing level will be maintained for three weeks (May 3-23, Level 2 in the metropolitan area and Level 1.5 in non-metropolitan areas), and the prohibition of private gatherings of five or more will continue. However, if the data continues to show aggravation, further opening-hour restriction (22:00 → 21:00) and the upward adjustment of social distancing will be taken into consideration.

○ The special infection control period will be extended for another week (May 3-9) to reinforce the infection control of areas of resurgence including the metropolitan area and Gyeongsangnam-do. Zero tolerance will be applied to infection control violations.

○ However, as gatherings of family members are expected to inevitably increase in the “Family Month” of May, the government plans to recommend holding such gatherings outdoors rather than indoors and emphasize the need to follow basic infection control guidelines and participate in the vaccination campaign.

< Infection Control Guidelines for Family Month >
⊙ (Gist) Gatherings should include a limited number of family members and be held in less crowded outdoor spaces at less crowded hours. Help senior family members get vaccinated.
⊙ (Publicity) Card news or web posters for the guidelines will be produced and distributed.

2. Vaccination Plan after May

□ Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (headed by Jeong Eun-kyeong) reported the vaccination plan for the future at the meeting.

○ Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency established the vaccination plan after May by taking into consideration the changed status of vaccine supplies and the number of daily new cases following the release of the Q2 vaccination plan (March 15).

□ First, the senior age group eligible for vaccination in Q2 is expanded to cover those aged 60-74* (8.95 million) from those aged 65-75 (4.94 million).

* Including those born from January 1, 1947, to December 31, 1961

○ This measure is intended to give first doses to those aged 60 and above as early as possible as the COVID-19 mortality rate and the rate of severely and critically ill patients* among this age group are high, thereby reducing infections and the occurrence of severe patients in advanced aged groups.

* Among all COVID-19-related deaths, 95.3% are 60 and above. Also, those aged 60 and above account for 86.8% of all COVID-19-related deaths and severely and critically ill patients.

- According to Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s analysis of vaccine effectiveness for senior citizens aged 60 and above, vaccine effectiveness two weeks after the first dose proved to be 86.6% or higher*.

* The AstraZeneca vaccine was shown to be 86.0% effective and the Pfizer vaccine to be 89.7% effective.

- The abnormal vaccine reaction reporting rate among those aged 60 and above was comparatively low at 0.1%. Even those cases reported as adverse events are believed to be incurred by underlying diseases such as cerebral hemorrhage and septicemia based on causality assessment. No cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (unusual blood clots) have been reported in Korea to date.

□ Vaccination will be performed in order of descending age, and vaccination institutions will be expanded to include contracted healthcare institutions nationwide from May 27 onwards.

○ The 60-74 age group (8.946 million people) is to be administered with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The 70-74 age group is being invited first to book vaccination appointments (starting May 6), followed by the 65-69 age group (starting May 10) and the 60-64 age group (starting May 13).

- First dose administration of the Pfizer vaccine for senior citizens aged 75 and above (3.494 million people), which was initiated on April 1 at vaccination stations nationwide, is scheduled to be completed by the end of June.

○ Patients suffering from chronic severe respiratory diseases (12,000 people) and teachers and caregivers (364,000 people) at preschools, child care centers, and elementary schools (working with first and second graders) will be administered with AstraZeneca shots based on appointment booking from May onwards.

□ Those under 30 eligible for Q2 vaccination but excluded from AstraZeneca vaccine administration (191,000 people including essential workers) will be given Pfizer shots at vaccination stations in June.

○ As for soldiers, military hospitals and military units will administer Pfizer vaccines to those under 30 (452,000 people) based on separate vaccination plans.

□ The number of institutions offering vaccination service will be expanded significantly, while also establishing the vaccination appointment booking system, to improve vaccination accessibility and convenience.

○ Whereas Pfizer shots have been given at vaccination stations so far, from July onwards, they will be administered at healthcare providers at the hospital level and above, which are contracted and operated as Pfizer vaccine administration stations.

○ Vaccination via contracted healthcare providers will be performed based on appointments booked online (http://ncvr.kdca.go.kr), a booking website that opened in mid-April.

- Telephone booking through call centers* is available for senior citizens with limited online access. Vaccination appointments can also be booked at community service centers in eup (town), myeon (township), and dong (neighborhood).

* Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s call center (1339), Health and Welfare Counseling Center of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (129), call centers operated by local governments, etc.

○ The government is currently developing a smartphone app that enables the public to manage and track all vaccination-related procedures and events. It will be equipped with features from vaccination appointment booking to appointment date alert, preliminary medical examination questionnaire preparation, and abnormal reaction monitoring.

- Vaccine doses unused due to unfulfilled appointments must be discarded unless administered within a preset timeframe. As such, the app will also be designed to notify users of empty slots upon their prior consent.

○ The government will continue to open up eligibility for more groups while enhancing vaccination convenience. Citizens are encouraged to actively follow guidance and make sure to receive vaccination as scheduled, provided that their health conditions permit on the scheduled dates.

3. Measures to Achieve 12 million + α Vaccinations within the First Half

□ The Ministry of the Interior and Safety (headed by Jeon Hae-cheol) reported measures to achieve 12 million + α vaccinations within the first half.

□ To accomplish this goal, the Ministry plans to reinforce the capacity of vaccination stations, provide workforce to public health centers, and develop diverse services to maximize the vaccination convenience of the public.

○ The Ministry has increased the number of vaccination stations to 257 nationwide since the end of April, several months earlier than the originally planned July target, to accelerate the nation’s vaccination progress.

* 49 on April 1 → 71 on April 8 → 175 on April 15 → 204 on April 22 → 257 on April 29

- Doses are being re-allocated to ensure a smooth vaccine rollout for those vaccination stations handling a greater number of appointments.

* 91,260 doses (78 trays) re-allocated: 4,680 doses (4 trays) among metropolitan city and provincial stations and 86,580 doses (74 trays) among city, county, and district stations

○ The healthcare workforce at local public health centers is being reinforced to enhance their vaccination capacity, while the administrative workforce at local governments is being utilized to support vaccination and epidemiological surveys.

* Reinforcing healthcare workforce at local public health centers (816 people as of September 2020) and utilizing administrative workforce at local governments (12,655 people)

- The National Fire Agency, Ministry of National Defense, and National Police Agency are dispatching nurses, emergency medical technicians, and army physicians to support vaccination progress.

* (National Fire Agency) Over 770 people dispatched including 2 nurses and 1 emergency medical technician per public health center; (Ministry of National Defense) 380 people dispatched to public health centers and 300 to screening stations in the metropolitan area; (National Police Agency) 1,600 people dispatched to screening stations

- Participants in the public job placement project (for those without a regular income)* in 2021 are also being allocated to vaccination stations to help expand the vaccine rollout.

* Goal of 10,000 participants (KRW 56.3 billion)

○ To boost the vaccination of senior citizens aged 75 and above, village and neighborhood heads and social welfare public officials visit door to door, collect written consent, and receive vaccination appointment booking.

- Transportation such as chartered buses are offered to help mobility-challenged senior citizens easily access vaccination stations.

- Volunteer workers at each vaccination station help them fill out the preliminary examination questionnaire, provide wheelchair assistance, and guide them through the station.

- The government also launched the Public Secretary service, which utilizes private apps to send information on vaccination appointment booking and how to respond to abnormal reactions after vaccination.

○ To reach the first half vaccination goal, the central and local governments plan to activate their administrative capacity to its fullest and provide on-site support.

- The number of vaccination stations will be expanded to 277 by opening 20 more locations (in early May) based on the findings from city, county, and district demand surveys.

- The number of physicians for the preliminary examination will be increased or re-stationed to those vaccination stations handling a greater number of appointments as deemed necessary.

- To promptly address difficulties and complaints, 17 local vaccination officials have been appointed among the bureau heads of the Ministry of the Interior and Safety and regularly visit and check the status of vaccination sites.

○ To ease the burden on local public health centers, the government plans to encourage local governments to recruit healthcare workers, provide the administrative workforce, and utilize participants in the public job placement project.

- To this end, 246 volunteer centers nationwide will be operated as the Vaccination Volunteer Workers’ Centers, which mobilize, train, and dispatch volunteer workers for vaccination support on the front lines.

○ Related service infrastructure will be rapidly expanded to ensure vaccination convenience and encourage more people to get vaccinated.

- Call centers operated by local governments will offer information on healthcare providers performing vaccination, abnormal reactions, vaccination schedules and sites, etc., in addition to guidance on vaccination appointment booking.

- In preparation for heat waves during the summer months, temporary outdoor facilities and related supplies for vaccination stations will be provided (including tents for heavy rain).

○ Lastly, each local government’s vaccination progress will be transparently shared with the public to build public trust in and facilitate the nation’s vaccination plan.

4. May-June COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Plan and Domestic Vaccine Development Support Measures

□ The Ministry of Health and Welfare (headed by Kwon Deok-chul) reported the May-June COVID-19 vaccine delivery plan and domestic vaccine development support measures at the meeting.

□ With the contract for an additional 40 million doses (for 20 million vaccinations) concluded with Pfizer on April 24, Korea succeeded in securing COVID-19 shots for nearly 100 million vaccinations in total (192 million doses for 99 million vaccinations) in 2021.

○ In the first half, 18.32 million doses, a 230,000 increase from the original plan, have been scheduled to be delivered. Among them, 4.12 million doses were administered to 3.33 million people as of April.

□ The government set the goal of vaccinating up to 13 million people within the first half by supplying 14.2 million doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer shots from May to June.

○ A total of 7.23 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be supplied continuously from May 14 to the first week of June. This means that the government’s goal to complete the administration of second shots scheduled to start in mid-May and to start the administration of first shots for the next eligible group at the end of May will be met without any complications.

○ A total of 5 million doses of Pfizer shots will be continuously supplied during the period of May-June, ensuring the smooth achievement of the vaccination plan for the first half.

○ In addition, 1.67 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 297,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered through COVAX within the first half. The government is having continued discussions with Novavax, Moderna, and Janssen to move the import of individually contracted doses up to the first half.

□ The government is stepping up its efforts to advance the development of domestic vaccines. As major vaccine developers are aiming to initiate Phase 3 clinical trials within the second half, it will focus its resources on accelerating Phase 3 trials.

○ Based on the study of the overseas case*, the government plans to support the initiation of comparative effectiveness clinical trials** for Phase 3 trials, which are considered more advantageous for second-movers to roll out their vaccines as soon as possible.

* Valneva of France: Initiating Phase 3 clinical trials (April 21) for its inactivated vaccine candidate by comparing it against AstraZeneca’s vaccine (source: Valneva’s website)

** Comparative effectiveness clinical trials: Used to verify the effectiveness of a vaccine candidate by comparing it against an already approved vaccine for immunogenicity (antibody titer, etc.) (currently being applied to the development of shingles vaccines, etc.)

○ The government aims to complete advance preparations such as developing and securing standard materials and the standard operating procedure (SOP) and expanding specimen analysis infrastructure within the first half of this year to ensure no setbacks in Phase 3 clinical trials.

○ To rapidly move into clinical trials, the government will help design Phase 3 trials through one-on-one tailored counseling and advance review for vaccine developers prior to the completion of Phase 1 and 2 trials (from May onwards).

○ The plan to support the mobilization of clinical trial participants through pan-governmental cooperation is in place. The government announced that vaccine clinical trial participants are being mobilized by Korea National Enterprise for Clinical Trials.

* COVID-19 clinical trials portal (https://covid19.koreaclinicaltrials.org)

○ The government will ease the financial burden on companies by providing support for clinical costs* and take steps to secure additional budgets if deemed necessary.

* Budget for vaccine clinical trials: (2020) KRW 49 billion → (2021) KRW 68.7 billion

□ The government will aggressively expand the foundation for domestic vaccine production. It will provide support for the supply of raw and secondary vaccine ingredients for companies manufacturing vaccines under contract through pan-governmental cooperation, as well as their domestic sourcing and production.

○ The government plans to start operating the Public-Private Task Force for Raw and Secondary Drug Ingredients in May of this year and establish the strategy to domestically source and produce raw and secondary vaccine ingredients.

○ The government will also attract overseas vaccine and vaccine ingredient manufacturers through incentives for foreign investors* and prepare the legal grounds for the designation of the Cutting-Edge Investment District**.

* Incentives include rent reduction/exemption, cash assistance, and reduction/exemption of local taxes and customs duties.
** Existing industrial complexes, etc., are utilized for the Cutting-Edge Investment District with incentives (rent reduction/exemption for resident companies, etc.) provided.

□ The government is exerting an all-out effort to ensure the supply of vaccines to complete up to 13 million vaccinations within the first half for high-risk groups, those workers engaging in COVID-19 response, etc.

○ The government stated that it would make thorough preparations for the start of Phase 3 clinical trials and “provide across-the-board support until domestic vaccines are successfully developed.”

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