December 12, 2022 13:06
Children aged 12-17 became eligible for a new COVID vaccine targeting Omicron variants on Monday. Health authorities on Sunday lowered the minimum age limit for winter vaccination from 18 to 12.
"We made the decision based on the fact that there are many children and adolescents whose immunity has waned since their last vaccination in March, and on expert opinions that new vaccines are as safe for children as for adults," a health official said.
Children will be given one of two updated Pfizer vaccines targeting the BA.1 and BA.4-5 Omicron variants approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety for the use of those aged 12 and older, provided they have received two basic vaccine shots and 90 days have passed since their last vaccination or infection.
They will get the same dosage as adults.
They can either make a booking for a date from Dec. 19 onwards or get a shot with a leftover vaccine any time.
Authorities are encouraging children and adolescents to get additional shots since their rate of reinfection is higher than in other age groups though they are at low risk of becoming seriously ill. Their rate of reinfection is estimated at 17.65 percent compared to the national average of 13.29 percent.
Only 18 children and adolescents have died so far from COVID in Korea.
But it remains to be seen if there is any uptake given their low rate of first booster shots. As of early Dec. 9, 66.5 percent had received two basic shots, but their rate of first booster shots was a mere 11.5 percent, compared to 60.8 percent among 20-somethings and 59.8 percent among 30-somethings.
Many parents are worried about vaccine side effects such as myocarditis and pericarditis and menstrual disorders.
"Children and adolescents are three to five times more susceptible to Omicron variants and about 1.8 times more likely to get reinfected with COVID than adults," said Peck Kyong-ran, the chief of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. "We're advising those suffering from chronic pulmonary and cardiac diseases or diabetes, obese children and adolescents whose immunity has waned to get a new COVID vaccine."
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