|Seven in 10 Korean residents want to wait and see the development of the situation before getting vaccinated for COVID-19, according to a survey unveiled Thursday by Seoul National University. / gettyimagesbank|
By Jun Ji-hye
The government is speeding up efforts to begin administering COVID-19 vaccines with the hope that widespread vaccination will be a game changer in its fight against the prolonged pandemic, but a majority of citizens are taking a cautious attitude amid concerns over the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
What is adding to the concerns is the emergence of new strains of COVID-19, which are believed to be more transmissible than older variants.
Jin Yoon-joo, who works for a Seoul-based trading company, said Thursday that her worries have deepened after she watched the news and learned that a doctor in the United States died 16 days after receiving Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine.
"Before this, I had already read several articles about the side effects of the vaccines reported in the United Kingdom. I don't think anyone can guarantee the safety of these vaccines that were developed only recently," she said.
The government has secured vaccines for 56 million people from global pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson's Janssen and AstraZeneca, which is enough to cover Korea's entire population.
The government is planning to begin inoculation as early as next month, with medical workers and other emergency personnel, along with elderly residents over 65 and other essential patients, to be first in line.
But 66.7 percent of Korean residents said they would rather wait and see how the situation develops before getting vaccinated, according to a survey unveiled by a research team led by You Myung-soon, a professor of Seoul National University's Graduate School of Public Health.
Those who said they wanted to get vaccinated at the earliest possible date accounted for only 28.6 percent.
You's team carried out the survey of 1,094 adults across the country from Jan. 8 to 10.
In the survey, a considerable number of respondents appeared to be worried about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, as 43.6 percent said they were not so sure whether the vaccines had gone through proper testing.
"The government is required to enhance its efforts to understand and reflect the people's intention, attitude and experiences before implementing its vaccination program," You said.
|A person goes through COVID-19 testing in a testing facility at Seoul Station, Thursday. / Yonhap|
Health experts also expressed that it is unlikely for the country to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 for the time being even after vaccinations begin.
"It is difficult to clarify when Korea will achieve herd immunity against COVID-19," said Kim Woo-joo, an infectious disease specialist at Korea University. "Because of a variety of variables including differences in efficacy between vaccines, we cannot say that all of the 36 million people who will be first in line for inoculation will have the antibodies."
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said it has set a goal of achieving herd immunity among the public by November, meaning that residents will continue to be asked to comply with antivirus guidelines, including wearing masks, even after vaccinations begin.
According to the KDCA, the country added 524 more COVID-19 cases including 496 local infections for Wednesday, raising the total caseload to 70,728. It marked a slight drop from 562 identified Tuesday.