South Korea’s Food and Drug Safety Ministry announced today that an advisory board has recommended caution over the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for people over the age of 65 due to lack of sufficient data.
South Korea signed a deal in December with AstraZeneca to secure 20 million doses of its vaccine, with the first shipment expected this month.
Meanwhile, South Korea has granted conditional approval to Celltrion COVID-19 antibody treatment.

All things vaccine and treatment for the virus that’s now infected close to 105-million and taken the lives of 2.2-8 million.
Let’s go in-depth.

I have two of our favorite medical experts live in the studio this evening.
To my right, Dr. Alice Tan, Internist at MizMedi Women’s Hospital and to my left Dr. Jung Ki-suck, Professor of Medicine at Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital and former director of KCDC.

Welcome, Dr. Tan and Dr. Jung to News In-depth.

I want to begin with South Korea’s approval of Celltrion’s COVID-19 treatment candidate today.
This was under several conditions first of which is that patients at higher risk may get the treatment – people aged 60 or older or with health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high pressure or chronic diseases that affect the respiratory system.
Another condition was that Celltrion submit results of the global phase-three clinical trial that they are in preparation to launch.
Medical experts remain divided on this antibody treatment. What are your thoughts?

Based on the success of Celltrion’s phase-two trials do you think news of a South Korean home grown treatment is in the near future?

The latest concern is over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the elderly
The EU and surrounding nations have come out with their own recommendations for the age guidelines of who, over the age of 18, should be vaccinated:
Finland – under 70; France, Germany, Austria, Sweden – under 65; Poland – under 60; Belgium – under 55
Switzerland, which has approved both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, is holding off on authorizing the AstraZeneca vaccine altogether due to insufficient trial data.

First, it seems there’s a grey line Italy, for example, recommends the vaccine for those under 55, and only those in good health if they’re over 55 but the vaccine priority is for those that are most vulnerable
Can you clarify the health factor in the elderly age group?
And why is there such variation in the recommendation age limits – “elderly” defined different across countries?

What does this mean for South Korea?
Now, the South Korean government has delayed its official stance on this matter, while there has been medical recommendation that vaccination of South Korean elderly over 65 be reconsidered.
Why would you say that age is 65, and what would the government and related ministries have to base the decision on?

Now, just ahead of vaccine rollout here in South Korea, the KDCA has acknowledged the possibility of a fourth wave in March primarily from these variant cases.
Aren’t we still trying to bring the number of daily new cases down from the third wave?
How likely is it that we have this cloud of a fourth wave looming on us? And what would it look like?

Again, we are still under the same social distancing regulations set into effect to stem the third wave
We’re at 2.5 plus, and the most prominent element of the banning of gatherings of more than 4 people.
This stringent scheme went into effect December 23 of last year this was week 6 of the restrictions
In making preventive efforts, what regulations do you reckon the government set forth?
Is there much we can do without going into complete lockdown?

According to new research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the genetic material of the COVID-19 variant virus is evolving and not in a good way.
As vaccines help people create neutralizing antibodies the virus is shapeshifting? The study suggests that the virus deletes its “spikes”, which is how the neutralizing antibody attached to the virus?
Can you help us understand this finding, and does this mean a new vaccine needs to be in development?

How do we get ahead of the virus?

Learning from other countries that have had a head start to vaccine rollouts, what does the COVID-19 situation have to look like in South Korea before inoculations begin?
Is warning of another wave going to have impact on the timeline of vaccinations?

Dr. Alice Tan, Dr. Jung Ki-suck, many thanks as always for your valuable insights and expertise. We always ALWAYS appreciate your time and input.

Reporter : jenmoon@arirang.co.kr

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