COVID Infections Surge Despite High Vaccination Rate

      December 13, 2021 09:58

      Some 92.1 percent of all adults in Korea are fully vaccinated against coronavirus but daily infections still hover at around 7,000, straining hospitals to breaking point. More than 20,000 COVID-19 patients have been told to self-isolate and nearly 900 people are in serious condition.

      As of last Saturday, 80.9 percent of ICU beds across the country have been filled, and over 90 percent in Seoul and Incheon. Some 1,739 people in the Seoul metropolitan area are waiting for ICU beds to become available, and a record 80 people died.

      The arrival of the Omicron variant exacerbates worries of an unprecedented surge in new cases. Ninety people have now tested positive for the highly infectious variant.

      The government has been taken aback by the scale of the surge and has been trying to deal with it by shortening the interval between full vaccination and booster shots to five, then four and ultimately three months. But so far only 33 percent of senior citizens have received their booster shots.

      People wait to get tested for coronavirus in Seoul on Sunday. /Yonhap

      The situation is no better for teenagers, who make up a substantial proportion of new cases. Only 37 percent of teens have been fully vaccinated so far, and 1,063 per 100,000 have been infected, a similar proportion to senior citizens who tested positive (1,048).

      Although youngsters have a lower chance of developing serious symptoms, they are equally vulnerable to infection.

      In Canada, France, Japan and Singapore, more than 70 percent of teens have been fully vaccinated.

      Booster shots appear to be the only defense. A study by Israel's Sheba Medical Center and the Health Ministry's Central Virology Laboratory showed that people who got booster shots have 100 times more immunity against the Omicron variant than people who received their second jabs five to six months ago.

      The U.K.'s Health Security Agency analyzed data gathered from 581 people infected with Omicron and forecast that booster shots could increase prevention by 70 to 75 percent.

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