November Immunity Target Is Not Good Enough

  • By Bae Jun-yong from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk

    April 30, 2021 14:17

    Acting Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki announced the additional purchases of enough Pfizer vaccine supplies for 20 million people and said the government had "laid the groundwork for pushing forward the timing of achieving herd immunity." That sounds good, but then Hong added, "Some are stoking excessive fears among the public citing a vaccine shortage and spreading false news."

    The government has always insisted that the aim is to achieve herd immunity by November, a modest enough hope, but a pipe dream given that the inoculation rate so far stands at 5.3 percent. And the government has lagged far behind in securing enough vaccines to administer in the first half of the year. Hong could pat himself on the back all night for securing additional Pfizer vaccine supplies, but not a single additional vial will be arriving in Korea before June. While the government dragged its heels, other countries surged ahead toward herd immunity, and citizens are enjoying outdoor gatherings and indoor concerts without face masks. Koreans are suffering a deep sense of envy and deprivation as they watch the rest of the world emerge from lockdown.

    The November herd immunity target was unilaterally set by the government, solely on the premise that vaccinations will progress as fast as possible in the second half after the shortage suffered in the first. The public was not consulted. If the government had done its job and secured enough vaccine supplies last year, the target could be achieved much sooner.

    But instead of bowing its head in shame, the government is treating critical news media as a nuisance. The proper thing for the government would be to apologize to the people, who have to wait until November. When reporters asked government officials if they felt such a need, they said, "As we informed you on Jan. 28, inoculations are progressing in an orderly way with 12 million people receiving their first injections. We don't think that is something to apologize for." Chung Sye-kyun, who was prime minister at the crucial time and now wants to run for president, even voiced concerns that there might be a glut of vaccine supplies in the second half of this year. That is hardly what the people are worried about. Rather, they are frustrated about the drawn-out lockdown and that they have to worry about another surge of infections because of the government's failure to secure vaccines early.

    Some policy pundits say the government probably thinks that the public will forget about the vaccine debacle if ample supplies arrive in the second half. That just shows the contempt the government has for the public.

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