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

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

A single dose of COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) and Pfizer (PFE.N) was 86.6% effective in preventing infections in people aged 60 and over, according to real-world data published by South Korea on Wednesday.

Data from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KDCA) show that the Pfizer vaccine, co-developed by BioNTech, was 89.7% effective in preventing infection for at least two weeks after the first dose, while the shot with AstraZeneca was effective 86.0%.

Its analysis is based on more than 3.5 million people in South Korea over the age of 60 in the two months since February 26 and includes 521,133 people who received their first dose or shot from Pfizer or AstraZeneca.

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

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

The findings come as South Korea seeks to step up its involvement in immunization driving after reports of potential safety issues discouraged some people from getting vaccinated. Read more

“About 95% of people who die from coronavirus in our country are senior citizens aged 60 and over, and vaccines will drastically reduce the risks for these people,” Health Ministry official Ion Tae-ho said at a briefing on Wednesday.

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

So far, South Korea has vaccinated 6.7% of its 52 million population, but has set itself the ambitious goal of firing 70% of its people by September and reaching herd immunity by November.

As of Wednesday, South Koreans who have been fully vaccinated and tested negative for COVID-19 and have no symptoms will be released from a two-week mandatory quarantine on their return from travel abroad to encourage more vaccinations.

The KDCA reported 676 new cases of COVID-19 as of midnight on Tuesday, with total infections in the country reaching 124,945 and 1,847 deaths.

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