(ATTN: UPDATES with more info throughout; ADDS photo)
By Kim Han-joo
SEOUL, April 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's health authorities on Thursday said they will resume administering AstraZeneca vaccines one day after suspending the vaccination program for certain groups over its safety, saying they will officially decide the issue over the weekend.
On Wednesday, the country suspended the use of vaccines by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant and Oxford University for people under age 60, special education instructors and school nurses.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) stressed the need to continue with the nationwide inoculation program as the benefits of administering the vaccines outweigh the risks.
The KDCA said a team of outside experts will thoroughly review the latest rare cases of blood clots from both home and abroad, and announce the result over the weekend.
The European drug safety agency, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), is also due to announce the results of a review on whether some cases of blood clotting in adults are linked to the AstraZeneca shot.
The EMA earlier said it found rare cases of blood clots among some adult vaccine recipients, although the agency said the vaccine's advantages still outweighed the potential risks.
The latest findings from the European regulator prompted numerous countries to suspend inoculations for certain age groups. Britain recommended that people under 30 should get an alternative COVID-19 vaccine.
Controversies have arisen globally over the efficacy and side effects of AstraZeneca products, also causing some delays in South Korea's vaccination campaign.
The country has so far reported three cases of blood clots in people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine, the KDCA said. In the first instance reported last month, blood clots were found in the body of a 60-something woman who died after taking the AstraZeneca jab.
On Monday, a woman in her 20s was diagnosed with blood clots in her legs and lungs after receiving AstraZeneca's vaccine last month. She first showed symptoms 12 days after her inoculation.
Since the country started its vaccination program on Feb. 26, a total of 1,075,574 people have been given COVID-19 vaccine shots here, including 35,860 the previous day. Around 2.06 percent of the total population was inoculated.
AstraZeneca's vaccine has been given to 903,074 people, while 172,500 received that of Pfizer.
Despite the planned resumption of AstraZeneca vaccine use, there is still public distrust over the product, which may strain the country's vaccine rollout plan, under which it aims to create herd immunity by November.
According to the KCDA, a total of 10.6 million AstraZeneca jabs are scheduled to be administered here by the end of June, which accounts for some 59 percent of injections of some 18 million doses in total in the country by that time.