Starting Tuesday, the first appointments for COVID-19 booster shots will open up as the nation continues to cope with the more contagious delta variant.
“As the delta variant spreads and the number of breakthrough infections goes up while the vaccination effect is decreasing over time after the basic inoculation, the need for an additional jab is increasing,” Jeong Eun-kyeong, commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said Monday.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, members of high-risk groups will have access to the country’s first booster jabs. These include people aged 60 or older and health care workers at hospitals for coronavirus patients.
A booster shot refers to an additional dose of a vaccine to boost the immune system after a certain period has passed since the initial inoculation series.
As the government’s vaccination committee recommends administering booster shots six months after a second inoculation, health authorities expect to give the first boosters to people over 75 and workers at senior care facilities. Members of those groups began receiving their first coronavirus shots April 1.
Reservations for booster shots can be made through the KDCA website. People can also call the KDCA or the local health authorities to make an appointment, or visit a nearby community centre.
The administration of booster shots will begin October 25, according to the KDCA.
Also beginning Tuesday, the country will open up the vaccine reservation system for young people aged 16 and 17. The system will stay open for that age group through October 29.
Vaccination appointments for young people aged 12 to 15 can be made October 18 to November 12.
The KDCA said teens would receive Pfiser’s vaccine at the same dosage as adults, and would get their first and second shots three weeks apart.
Because minors under 18 require parental consent, their appointments must be made individually, the health authorities said.
Of the country’s population, 77.3 percent had received at least one coronavirus shot as of Sunday while 52.6 percent of the population was fully vaccinated.
Distancing rules extended
The country reported 1,673 new cases Sunday. It was the first day that the daily count had dropped below the 2,000s since September 23.
Despite the lower number and the fact that the vaccination drive is proceeding at a faster pace, the health authorities are not loosening their quarantine measures yet.
The existing social distancing guidelines were extended for another two weeks starting Monday and will remain effective through October 17.
“Over the past week, the average number of confirmed cases per day increased by 22 percent compared to the previous week, which included the Chuseok holiday. Last week’s reproduction rate for infection was 1.2, the highest since the third week of July,” Interior minister Jeon Hae-cheol said Sunday.
“Due to the increase in the amount of movement during the Chuseok Holiday, the sustainability of the virus spread remains and there is also a high concern about further spread caused from two holidays in October.”
The Greater Seoul area is still under the most restrictive rules, Level 4, while the rest of the country is under Level 3. Restaurants and cafes nationwide cannot seat customers after 10 p.m. and can only offer delivery service.
For Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, the distancing guidelines allow private gatherings of up to six fully inoculated people. People who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated can gather in groups of no more than four before 6 p.m. and no more than two after 6 p.m.
Under Level 3 guidelines up to eight people can get together, but at least four of them must be fully inoculated.
The government eased some of its restrictions on weddings and outdoor sports facilities, with the focus on providing vaccine incentives.
The new guidelines allow up to 99 people at weddings where meals are served, but at least 50 must be fully inoculated. Weddings where no meals are provided can have up to 199 participants, but 100 of them must be fully vaccinated.
The previous rules limited the number of guests to 49 for weddings with meals and 99 for those without.
For outdoor sports facilities, the new guidelines now allow up to 1.5 times the number of players required for each sport. But rules on private gatherings still apply to them.
In the case of baseball, for instance, each team needs at least nine players, so 27 people can gather for a game. Of them, 23 of them must be fully inoculated before 6 p.m. and 25 have to be fully vaccinated if they gather after 6 p.m.