As COVID-19 cases soar in South Korea, new cases among children and teenagers are on a quick rise. According to the central disaster and safety countermeasures headquarters, 279 new patients aged between 0 and 19 were confirmed daily on average between July 21 and July 27, which is about three times more than a month ago. The age group accounted for 20 percent of all infections on July 19, which was the highest share since March 3 this year.
It cannot be said that the number of new patients increased among younger people in proportion to the overall increase of new patients. The average number of new daily cases in the age group was 75 – seven percent of all cases – during the third wave, which doubled both in number and share during the current fourth wave with 182 patients – 16 percent of all cases – on average per day. It seems to be related to the fact that most young people are yet to be vaccinated as vaccines are currently given to those aged over 18 in South Korea.
According to the disease control authorities’ vaccination plan, vaccination for those aged 12 to 17 will begin in the fourth quarter. Some issues may arise in August and September when vaccines are not offered to them and may continue until mid-November when at least half of them are vaccinated. A new semester will begin in September. A plan to have all students in classrooms from the next semester is still in place, but online classes are likely to resume unless the level of social distancing guidelines is lowered to Level 2.
On Tuesday, 12 elementary school and middle school students who attend a language institute in Buk-gu, Busan tested positive. The total number of patients, which originated from mass infections at an elementary school in Nam-gu, Incheon, amounted to 81 on July 6. Two-thirds of a class who attended a discussion course were confirmed for COVID-19. As the delta variant is infecting younger people despite their strong immune system, school and educational institutions should strengthen their disease control efforts.
Vaccinating more adults is the best option to protect younger people as they would have to wait a while before getting vaccinated. Vaccination among adults is going slower than expected due to a supply shortage. The country recently ran into an issue with securing the supply of Moderna vaccines. While young patients’ survival rate against COVID-19 is very high at 99.999 percent, they may suffer from other side effects. Vaccination should be hurried to ensure that young people do not have to pay for the slow progress.