Initial supply of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine may be limited, necessitating its effective use. Herein, an age-structured model of COVID-19 spread in South Korea is parameterized to understand the epidemiological characteristics of COVID-19. The model determines optimal vaccine allocation for minimizing infections, deaths, and years of life lost while accounting for population factors, such as country-specific age distribution and contact structure, and various levels of vaccine efficacy. A transmission-blocking vaccine should be prioritized in adults aged 20–49 years and those older than 50 years to minimize the cumulative incidence and mortality, respectively. A strategy to minimize years of life lost involves the vaccination of adults aged 40–69 years, reflecting the relatively high case-fatality rates and years of life lost in this age group. An incidence-minimizing vaccination strategy is highly sensitive to vaccine efficacy, and vaccines with lower efficacy should be administered to teenagers and adults aged 50–59 years. Consideration of age-specific contact rates and vaccine efficacy is critical to optimize vaccine allocation. New recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines under consideration by the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are mainly based on a mortality-minimizing allocation strategy.
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