Seoul (South Korea), April 14: Fresh vaccine jitters, caused by U.S. health authorities' recommendation of pausing the use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine over blood clot fears, are likely to further slow South Korea's immunization drive.
In a blow to the global vaccination campaign, U.S. health authorities recommended pausing Johnson & Johnson's single-dose shot after they began an investigation into rare clots in six women who received the shot. One person died.
Johnson & Johnson swiftly announced it would delay its vaccine rollout in Europe.
South Korea has planned to receive 6 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine and begin administering it in the third quarter of this year.
An official at the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said the nation needs to discuss the issue of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to reports of blood clots.
The KDCA plans to hold a meeting with experts over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, while closely monitoring situations in other nations, the official said.
South Korea plans to vaccinate 12 million people by the end of June with a goal of achieving herd immunity by November.
However, worries about the AstraZeneca vaccine's safety have already hampered the nation's vaccination drive.
Since the country started its vaccination program on Feb. 26, a total of 1,239,065 people, or about 2.4 percent of its population, have been given COVID-19 vaccine shots.
AstraZeneca's vaccine has been given to 936,448 people, while 302,617 received that of Pfizer. The number of people who have received two doses came to 60,567.
South Korea earlier put the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine for people under age 60, special education instructors and school nurses on hold, after the country reported three cases of blood clots among recipients of the jabs, with two of the patients in their 20s.
The use of AstraZeneca's vaccine resumed Monday, except for those aged 30 and below.
The KDCA, however, said those aged below 30 were excluded, as the risks of suffering blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine still outweigh the benefits of being vaccinated.
The KDCA's earlier plan was for around 640,000 people below 30 to receive AstraZeneca's jabs in the second quarter.
It now aims to adjust its second-quarter inoculation plan by utilizing the volume earlier allocated for younger recipients.
With only two types of vaccines currently available here, the health ministry said it expects to secure Novavax vaccines as early as June, and 20 million doses will be ready by the third quarter.
Earlier this week, health officials said South Korea plans to start local production of the Novavax vaccine as early as June.
Novavax inked a license agreement with South Korea's SK Bioscience to produce 40 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for the nation.