Officials at a coronavirus vaccination site in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, receive their first delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines on Feb. 26, 2021. (Photo: Yonhap News)
A panel of experts in South Korea has endorsed the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in people aged 16 and up.
The advisory board, consisting of outside experts and officials from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, recommended on Friday that Pfizer's two full-dose regimen be approved for emergency use, saying it showed more than a 95 percent efficacy rate.
Despite the panel's advice, it is unclear whether youths aged 16 and 17 will be eligible to receive the Pfizer jabs.
Local health authorities have excluded under-18s from the inoculation program, but may decide otherwise after the ministry announces the final approval.
On Saturday, an initial group of some 55,000 medical workers at hospitals with COVID-19 wards will begin to get the Pfizer vaccine, delivered to the country under the World Health Organization's global COVAX Facility project.
The ministry has yet to review whether to allow the Pfizer vaccine to be stored at higher temperatures for two weeks instead of ultra-cold conditions, at minus 70 degrees Celsius.
Earlier, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it will allow Pfizer vaccines to be transported and stored for up to two weeks at conventional freezer temperatures.
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