Calls for Incentives as Vaccine Uptake Remains Low

  • By Kim Sung-mo, Bae Jun-yong

    May 10, 2021 13:34

    The government is hoping to speed up coronavirus vaccination despite a string of setbacks and its failure to secure sufficient vaccines in time.

    The current modest goal is to inoculate 13 million of Korea's 58 million population in the first half of the year, but uptake has been poor amid fears of side effects from the vaccines, and calls are growing to offer incentives for people to take the jab.

    Health authorities say there were only 19,631 reports of side effects or a mere 0.47 percent of all 4.18 million vaccine doses administered as of Sunday morning.

    The reporting rate dropped from 1.81 percent in the first week of vaccinations (Feb. 26-March 6) to 0.12 percent in the ninth week (April 25-May 1), but fears linger.

    Currently, the government pays for all medical costs if a causal relationship is found between vaccination and death or illness.

    Korean coronavirus patients are being airlifted from India to Korea on Sunday. /Yonhap

    The causality is assessed by WHO standards, and it has been confirmed in only very few cases. Of all 124 reports of deaths and other side effects reviewed until last Thursday, causation was confirmed in only two, while four cases were put on hold.

    Experts are calling for expanding compensation of damage from vaccination to make people feel safe. Earlier, the government pledged financial support for middle or low-income households if severe side effects or death occurs after vaccination.

    "By law, business owners must compensate staff for work-related accidents or environment-related illnesses unless they can prove the contrary," said Prof. Choi Jae-wook of Korea University. "The government should apply the same criteria to vaccines."

    There are also calls to revise the age restriction for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is associated with blood clot risks, to boost the uptake rate.

    Last Thursday, the U.K. announced a plan to expand the age barrier for AstraZeneca vaccine from under 30 to under 40, and experts here are urging the government to follow suit.

    Chun Eun-mi of Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital even called for raising the age ceiling to 50 to make more people feel safe, but the problem is that Korea has barely any other vaccines at its disposal.

    Meanwhile, the daily tally of new coronavirus infections stood at 463 as of Monday morning, below 500 for the first time in about a week. The accumulated total was 127,772, while deaths increased one to 1,875.

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