Asian nations get first COVID-19 shots

AP – South Korea’s top infectious disease experts warned that vaccines will not bring the disease to a quick end and called for continued vigilance in social distancing and mask wearing as the country prepares to give its first shots tomorrow.

Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said yesterday it would take a “considerably long time” before the mass vaccination campaign brings the virus under control.

The country aims to vaccinate over 70 per cent of the population by November. But a safe return to a life without masks is highly unlikely this year, considering various factors including the growing spread of virus variants, Korea University Ansan Hospital infectious disease professor Choi Won Suk said.

“We are concerned that people might drop their guard as vaccination begins, triggering another massive wave of the virus,” Jeong said.

Jeong spoke as South Korea began transporting the first vaccines rolled off a production line in the southern city of Andong, where local pharmaceutical company SK Bioscience is manufacturing the shots developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

A container with AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccines is unloaded from a truck at a distribution centre in Incheon, South Korea. PHOTO: AP

The country will kick off the vaccination tomorrow starting with residents and employees at long-term care facilities.

Separately, some 55,000 doctors, nurses and other health professionals treating COVID-19 patients will begin receiving the shots developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Saturday.

Meanwhile in Australia, two elderly people have been administered with higher-than-prescribed doses of the Pfizer vaccine, Australia’s Health Minister said yesterday.

The 88-year-old man and 94-year-old woman were being monitored and the doctor who administered the shots had been stood down from the vaccination programme, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

The error occurred at an aged care home in the Brisbane suburb of Carseldine on Tuesday, the day after the vaccine rollout in Australia began, Hunt said.

“Both patients are being been monitored and are showing no signs at all of an adverse reaction,” Hunt said. He did not say how much more than the prescribed dose was injected.

Lincoln Hopper, chief executive of St Vincent’s Care Services that owns the home, said he was “very concerned” for the residents’ welfare. The woman remained at the home while the man had been admitted to a hospital, Hopper said. “This incident has been very distressing to us, to our residents and to their families and it is also very concerning,” Hopper said. “It caused us to question whether some of the clinicians given the job of administering the vaccine have received the appropriate training.”

Hunt later revealed that the doctor who administered the overdoses had not completed the online training that health professionals involved in the programme must undertake.

Hunt apologised for earlier telling Parliament that the doctor had been trained. He said he asked the Health Department to take action against the doctor and the company the doctor works for.