COVID-19 vaccination finally began in South Korea on Friday. A total of 5,266 patients and employees under 65 years old at 213 elderly care facilities across the country received AstraZeneca’s vaccines. South Korea is the 100th country to begin vaccination but it is 80 days later than the U.K., which was the first country to distribute vaccines.
Starting Saturday, around 50,000 medical workers at hospitals for COVID-19 patients will receive Pfizer vaccines, which were delivered to the Incheon International Airport and distributed to five vaccination centers across the country. The vaccines were acquired through a global vaccine-sharing initiative known as the COVAX Facility. About 354,000 healthcare workers at high-risk medical facilities, such as tertiary hospitals, and 78,000 COVID-19 first-responders will receive AstraZeneca’s vaccines from March 8 and March 22, respectively. The government’s plan is to begin vaccination for healthy adults in July and create herd immunity by November.
While the country joined others in vaccination, challenges are ahead after April. The vaccination plan may encounter issues as the vaccine supply schedule is uncertain. Another concern is that vaccination for those over 65 has been postponed to the second quarter. The first mistake in the vaccination plan is to start with AstraZeneca’s vaccines whose efficacy has not been sufficiently proven for the elderly. If its effectiveness is less than desirable, the entire plan will have to be reexamined. The government needs to secure vaccines as if its fate depends on them amid the global vaccine shortage.
The workers at elderly care facilities showed relief after vaccination. However, vaccines do not guarantee the creation of antibodies in all cases. Furthermore, the vaccinated person can still spread the virus without getting infected. Vaccines’ effectiveness against a growing number of variants is unclear. These are all the reasons why the level of disease-control efforts cannot be relaxed even after vaccination began. The most effective response to the virus is every citizen getting vaccinated and maintaining strict social distancing and following personal hygienic guidelines. With the historical moment of vaccination, the country needs to reinforce its determination against the virus once again. A smooth vaccination and disease control efforts to create herd immunity will be the only way to end the COVID-19 pandemic and return to everyday life as we know it.