Jeong Eun-kyeong, the chief of KDCA, announces Korea"s COVID-19 vaccination plan in Chungju, on Jan. 28, 2021. [Photo by Yonhap)
The Korean government will kick off its free Covid-19 vaccination program in early February with an aim to get 70 percent of its population vaccinated by September this year and form herd immunity by November.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) on Thursday announced that about 50,000 front-line healthcare professionals treating Covid-19 patients will get the first coronavirus shots starting next month, followed by another 1.25 million people that includes patients and workers at sanatoriums and elderly care facilities, and high-risk healthcare workers during the first quarter.
Starting in the second quarter, about 9 million people that includes the elderly aged 65 years or older, and healthcare and pharmacy workers will begin vaccinations, with another 33.25 million adults aged between 18 and 64, including those with chronic conditions in the third quarter. The fourth quarter is reserved for second shots and those unvaccinated.
In April, an emergency vaccination program will be in place for those who need to travel overseas for emergency reasons and vaccination is required by a destination country. The vaccination certificate will be issued online for convenience. In addition, a visiting vaccination service team will be formed for those with mobility problems.
All citizens in Korea will be given free Covid-19 vaccines.
The following are key questions and answers about the Covid-19 vaccination program in Korea.
Q. Can I choose my vaccination date and vaccine brand?
A. The general public aged 18 to 64 can receive Covid-19 shots from the third quarter through advance booking. On Feb. 1, a dedicated website will be available to provide information on Covid-19 vaccines and inoculation. Individuals are not granted an option to choose vaccine brands. Vaccines will be selected for each target group by the Vaccination Review Committee, taking into account the supply volume and characteristics of each vaccine platform, safety and efficacy, and side effects.
Q. Can overseas Korean nationals receive vaccination?
A. Vaccination is also planned for Korean nationals overseas. They will receive shots in the same order as the general public. In the case of urgent departure from the country, an emergency vaccination procedure will be in place from April to give vaccines to those in urgent need regardless of the waiting order, which is subject to agency review and approval by the KDCA.
Q. Can I reject the vaccination for side effect concerns?
A. All vaccines have potential adverse reactions due to biological factors, but vaccination is strongly recommended because the rate of adverse reactions reported so far is low and vaccination has a greater benefit than risk. However, vaccines will be given only after the individual’s consent with his or her health status taken into account. If you reject vaccination, your vaccine schedule will be pushed back. You can still get vaccinated even if you have asymptomatic infection or a history of Covid-19 infection. If you are diagnosed with the coronavirus, vaccination will be possible only after recovery. However, it is recommended to receive your vaccine after at least 90 days to avoid the interference between the immune response after vaccination and antibody therapy.
[Graphics by Song Ji-yoon]
Q. Who cannot get vaccinated?
A. Although all citizens are eligible for the Covid-19 vaccination, pregnant women and children and adolescents under the age of 18 who were not included in clinical trials are excluded from the vaccination program. However, this may change depending on additional clinical trial results. People with chronic or underlying diseases can also get the shots. Simultaneous vaccination with other vaccines is not recommended. Two different vaccines should be given at least 14 days apart.
Q. Can I get infected after vaccination?
A. It takes about two weeks for protective antibodies to form after inoculation. The interval between first and second shots is 3-4 weeks depending on the vaccine type. If the second shot is delayed, it should be given as soon as possible, but there is no need to receive the first shot again just because of the delay in second vaccination. In addition, because 100 percent immunity is not formed by vaccination alone, individuals can be infected if immunity is not formed after vaccination or their immunity decreases.
By Park Yoon-gyun and Minu Kim
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]