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Inoculation Fever for Young Children Rising

Posted May. 22, 2010 08:17,   


Young mothers are scrambling to vaccinate their children. The government is providing free vaccination services against eight diseases, including hepatitis B and polio, by categorizing them as diseases requiring mandatory vaccinations.

The cost, however, is one million to two million won (841 to 1,682 U.S. dollars) to vaccinate children against pneumonia and enteritis not covered by insurance at private hospitals. If vaccination against cervical cancer is included, the cost is an additional 600,000 won. Medical experts say early vaccination is effective in preventing disease.

Vaccination costs rise since mothers prefer inoculating their children at private medical clinics even for mandatory vaccinations, though public medical centers provide a combined 22 vaccinations for the eight diseases for free. Private hospitals charge 500,000 won (421 dollars) for compulsory vaccinations though they are covered by insurance.

Groundless rumors are spreading on the Web, saying, “Vaccines at public medical centers are less effective than those at private hospitals,” or “Public medical centers provide Chinese-made medicines.”

An official at the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “Vaccinations at public medical centers have been carried out in a clean environment with all vaccines stored in refrigerators since 2000. Vaccines are fresh since public medical centers receive vaccines every three to six months.”

Therefore, avoiding vaccinations at public medical centers and choosing private hospitals are waste of money, experts say.

A mother of a 21-month-old daughter said, “Over the last six months, I spent more than 300,000 won (252 dollars) on vaccinations,” adding, “I went only to private hospitals since I didn’t have much knowledge of vaccinations.”

One expert says, however, “Vaccinations cause no harm. If the chance of getting a disease is low, however, children don’t necessarily need to be inoculated against the disease.”

The incidence of the same disease is also country to country because of environmental and genetic differences.

The official said, “In Europe, Hib vaccines against encephalomeningitis are popular, but the vaccination against encephalomeningitis in Korea isn’t mandatory since the disease is not prevalent here.”

On the contrary, vaccinations against typhoid, Japanese encephalitis and tuberculosis that are mandatory in Korea are not popular overseas.

Pediatrician Jang Gwang-cheon at Ilsan Hospital, which is run by the National Health Insurance Corp., said, “The incidence of pneumococci and encephalomeningitis is very low for children age six or seven or older so inoculation is not necessary for children over that age.”

Some, however, say mandatory inoculation should be expanded given that more small children are raised in group settings such as at daycare centers due to a growing number of working moms.

Kim Dong-ho, a pediatrician at Korea Cancer Center Hospital, said, “In the case of a disease whose vaccination cost is high, the government should actively intervene to provide free vaccinations.”

The Health and Welfare Ministry said, “We are considering including diseases that we believe the people must be inoculated against, such as hepatitis A, in the mandatory vaccination list.”