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Authorities allow booster shots three months after initial vaccination

South Korea’s new COVID-19 cases surpass 7,000 for the third straight day

People line up in front of a COVID-19 testing center in Seoul, Friday. (Yonhap)
People line up in front of a COVID-19 testing center in Seoul, Friday. (Yonhap)

South Korea‘s new COVID-19 cases again topped 7,000 on Thursday, remaining in the 7,000s on three consecutive days, government data showed Friday.

“As daily cases remained in the 7,000 for three days straight, with seniors aged 60 or older accounting for 35 percent of the confirmed cases, the country’s medical capabilities are being rapidly overwhelmed,” Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said in a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, held Friday.

Facing a worrying resurgence in COVID-19 cases, the South Korean government has announced that booster shots for adults -- aged 18 or older -- can be administered three months after their second vaccination shot -- or first, in the case of shots from Johnson & Johnson.

The government, last month, cut the dosage interval for booster shots from six months to four months for people aged 60 or older and five months for people in their 50s.

The government decision to cut the dosage interval reads as a move to counter waning immunity of local citizens who started to receive COVID-19 vaccines earlier February this year.

Kim also emphasized the need to accelerate the speed of vaccination for children and teenagers. Kim said the government will operate inoculation programs at schools, starting next week.

To date, only around 34 percent of children aged between 12-17 have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, while 65.8 percent of teenagers aged between 16-17 received the second shot.

Kim said that the government will share information and scientific data to ease parents’ concerns about the safety of the vaccine for their children.

To counter the ongoing shortage of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, the government will also issue an administrative order to secure at least 1,700 hospital beds in the non-capital area, according to Kim.

Kim said the government would issue additional administrative orders, through which it expects to provide some 5,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in the near future.

While asking for the cooperation of citizens, Kim hinted that the government could reintroduce tougher COVID-19 restrictions if the situation does not improve.


By Shim Woo-hyun (ws@heraldcorp.com)
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