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S.Korea says AstraZeneca, Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are 87% effective after first shot

A health worker receives a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Seoul, South Korea, March 10, 2021. REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji

A dose of COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) and Pfizer (PFE.N) was 86.6% effective in preventing infections among persons aged 60 years and older, real data published by South Korea, showed Wednesday.

Data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) showed that the Pfizer vaccine, developed jointly by BioNTech, was 89.7% effective in preventing infection at least two weeks after the first dose was given while the AstraZeneca shot was 86.0% effective.

Its analysis is based on more than 3.5 million people in South Korea aged 60 years and older in two months as of February 26, and included 521,133 people who received a first dose of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca shots.

There were 1,237 COVID-19 cases in the data, and only 29 were from the vaccinated group, the KDCA said.

“It has been shown that both vaccines provide a high level of protection against the disease after the first dose. (People) should receive full vaccinations according to the recommended schedule, as the degree of protection will increase further after a second dose,” it said.

The results come as South Korea tries to trim participation in its immunization drive, after reports of potential security concerns deterred some people from being vaccinated. Read more

“About 95% of the people who died of coronavirus in our country were older than 60 years and over, and the vaccines will greatly reduce the risk to these people,” Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho told a briefing on Wednesday.

Yoon said the possibility of side effects, including blood clots, is “extremely low” and that they are mostly cured.

South Korea has so far vaccinated 6.7% of its 52 million strong population, but has set an ambitious goal of giving shots to 70% of the population by September and achieving herd immunity by November.

From Wednesday, South Koreans who are fully vaccinated and show a negative COVID-19 test and no symptoms will be exempted from the two-week mandatory quarantine when they return from overseas travel, to encourage more vaccinations.

The KDCA reported 676 new COVID-19 cases from midnight on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total infections to 124,945 with 1,847 deaths.

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