South Korea starts COVID-19 vaccination from Friday. Some 270,000 among patients and workers at nursing hospitals and facilities will the first group to get AstraZeneca vaccine shots. Medical practitioners and paramedics treating the virus will get vaccinated when Pfizer vaccines are adopted in March. Senior citizens at the age of 65 or over get shots in April, and healthy adults in July. The government plans to vaccinate 70 percent of the citizens and achieve herd immunity by November.
Such a large scale vaccination project is unprecedented in the nation and entails many obstacles. Most of all, it is important to earn citizens’ trust towards the vaccines. Fortunately, 93.8 percent of the first vaccination group agreed to get vaccinated, which means the level of trust is high. But controversies on the effect of AstraZeneca vaccines on the elderly persist in the situation where citizens have no choice as to which type of vaccine they would get. The government should quickly and transparently disclose additional information on the effect and safety of vaccines and select vaccination groups for different types of vaccines in a reasonable manner so that all vaccination groups can be vaccinated on time.
It is concerning that the vaccination plan already had a setback from the start. The number of The headcount for vaccination in the first quarter of year has been reduced from 1.3 million to 750,000 as the introduction of vaccines was delayed and those at the age of 65 or over were excluded from the first group. This means the vaccination load will be more congested in the second half of the year. The government should mobilize all infrastructure for vaccination including hospitals and vaccination centers to come up with a vaccination plan for each vaccine type. Since the U.K. started vaccination first on December 8, some 200 million people in more than 100 countries have been vaccinated. South Korea started off a little late due to the government’s procrastination in securing the vaccines, but it should not be late in achieving herd immunity in November.
Securing enough medical practitioners is also important to finish vaccinating tens of millions in a short period of time. But the Korean Medical Association forewarned a general strike, protesting against the revised bill to cancel the medical license of those who are sentenced to imprisonment without labor or heavier punishment. The number of patients with depression is rapidly increasing as the prolonged pandemic is creating anxiety and unemployment is skyrocketing. A new strain of virus is giving a notice of a pandemic. Who would think doctors are demanding their due rights against the revised bill if they seek a group action and take vaccination as a hostage in a pressing situation where vaccines are the only solution?