Koreans Are Ready for Swift Vaccination

  • By Chosun Ilbo columnist Kim Min-cheol

    January 06, 2021 13:33

    Around 50,000 people in Korea came down with the measles back in 2000 and 2001 and seven died. The only answer to the problem was to vaccinate the public. Health authorities faced stiff opposition when they tried to import vaccines from India, but eventually, 5.8 million schoolkids were vaccinated between May and July in 2001 as the public watched nervously. Fortunately, the vaccinations progressed without a hitch and Korea eradicated measles by 2006. The country has since been cited as a textbook case of tackling an epidemic over a short period.

    Countries that raced each other to secure ample supplies of coronavirus vaccines are now rushing to inoculate their citizens. Israel has been the fastest, starting to administer Pfizer vaccines on Dec. 20 and inoculating 13 percent or 1.09 million of its population by last Saturday. The country has injected more than 150,000 people a day and hopes to vaccinate a fifth of its population by the end of this month. There is a strong chance that Israel will be the first country in the world to announce herd immunity.

    Germany also vaccinated almost 240,000 citizens by last Saturday, though France was only able to vaccinate 516 people by New Year's Day. Both countries began vaccinations the same day, Dec. 27, but there is fierce resistance among independent-minded French people to being told what to do, compounded by a byzantine bureaucratic system. French President Emmanuel Macron was enraged by the slow speed of vaccination, but was left helpless.

    Vaccinations have also progressed slowly in the U.S. and U.K. Despite an explosive increase in coronavirus deaths, the U.S. has only achieved 20 percent of its vaccination target, prompting health officials to consider halving the dose per person to speed up the process. U.K. health officials decided to lengthen the gap between the first and second shot by up to 12 weeks even though that may render the vaccine ineffective. The measure came after former Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed that all of the coronavirus vaccines that were secured by January should be used in the first round of injections. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are supposed to be administered three to four weeks apart, but doctors say they need to verify that.

    In Korea, there is virtually no public resistance to vaccinations. During the swine flu epidemic in 2009, vaccinations started here in late October and infections were effectively contained by December. Vaccines require two injections and involve complex logistics systems, but inoculations could be completed in just a few months once supplies are secured. But Koreans are condemned to looking on while the vaccination dramas unfold in other countries because their own government has dragged its heels in securing enough supplies.

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