Asia Today: S. Korea allows workers to squeeze extra doses

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Hong Kong Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan, fourth left, and Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip, fourth right, with Cathay Pacific and Fosun Pharma Co. representatives gesture after the delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccines at the Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (Jerome Favre/Pool Photo via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency has allowed health workers to squeeze extra doses from vials of coronavirus vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

The decision on Saturday came after some health workers who were administering the AstraZeneca shots reported to authorities that they still saw additional doses left in the bottles that had each been used for 10 injections.

KDCA official Jeong Gyeong-shil said skilled workers may be able to squeeze one or two extra doses from each vial if they use low dead-volume syringes designed to reduce wasted medications and vaccines.

However, she said the KDCA isn’t allowing health workers from combining vaccines left in different bottles to create more doses.

The KDCA had previously authorized 10 injections for each AstraZeneca vial and six for each Pfizer vial.

South Korea, which launched its public vaccination campaign on Friday, is administering the AstraZeneca shots to residents and workers at long-term care facilities and the Pfizer ones to front-line medical workers.

South Korea on Saturday reported another 405 coronavirus cases.

In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:

— Over 500,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in Hong Kong on Saturday following a two-day delay due to export procedures, offering a second inoculation option for the city. The Pfizer-BioNTech shots will be offered to about 2.4 million eligible residents from priority groups such as those aged 60 and above and health care workers. About 70,000 residents who have registered for the vaccination program, which kicked off on Friday, will receive the shots developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac. The Sinovac vaccines were the first to arrive last week. Registration details for those wishing to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech shots haven’t been announced yet. Hong Kong has struck deals for a total of 22.5 million doses, with 7.5 million each from Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Fosun Pharma, which is delivering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. The government has so far approved the Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

—- New Zealand’s largest city of Auckland is going back into a seven-day lockdown after a new unexplained coronavirus case was found. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement Saturday evening after an urgent meeting with top lawmakers in the Cabinet. She said the lockdown would take effect from Sunday morning. Auckland earlier this month was placed into a three-day lockdown after new cases of the more contagious variant first found in Britain were found. New Zealand has pursued a zero-tolerance elimination strategy with the virus, and had successfully stamped out community spread before the latest cases were found this month. Ardern said the latest patient had experienced symptoms since earlier in the week and could have infected others. The rest of New Zealand will also have increased restrictions.

— Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry has decided to vaccinate everyone aged 30 and above in the high-risk areas of the capital Colombo and suburbs where COVID-19 cases are rising. There were 466 new cases in the last 24 hours. Sri Lankan began its inoculation drive in January starting with health workers. So far, more than 406,000 people have received their shots.

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April 22 2021 09:00 am