Vaccine reservation rate among unvaccinated reaches merely 1.2% over 4-day holiday

한겨레 입력 2021. 9. 23. 18:06
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People returning to Seoul after the holiday wait to be tested for COVID-19 outside a temporary screening station at Suseo Station in Seoul’s Gangnam District on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)

Despite surpassing its goal of have 70% of people in South Korea vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the lagging rates of vaccine appointment reservations have experts worried about increased severe and fatal cases among the unvaccinated

With over 70% of South Koreans having received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday, administering doses to the remaining unvaccinated population has emerged as a top priority — but in the four days after surpassing that goal, the reservation rate among unvaccinated South Koreans amounted to just 1.2%.

Many are now calling for measures to ensure that these unvaccinated people receive doses due to concerns about severe cases and deaths rising if the virus surges among unvaccinated senior citizens.

On Wednesday, the COVID-19 vaccination response team announced that the vaccine reservation rate for the 5,575,860 unvaccinated South Koreans among those eligible for inoculation came out to 1.2%, or 70,862 people.

To ensure that unvaccinated people would be able to make reservations, the team began accepting additional appointments for those aged 18 and up as of 8 pm on Saturday.

The reservation deadline is 6 pm on Sept. 30, and the individuals in question would begin receiving doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Oct. 1. Currently, there are no plans to provide additional reservation opportunities in October.

Experts have voiced concerns that infections could spread among the unvaccinated.

“The Delta variant is so strongly transmissible that we can’t expect to see unvaccinated people being protected by herd immunity,” said Lee Jae-gap, a professor of infectious disease at Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital.

“If there are a lot of infections among the unvaccinated, we could experience an increase in deaths and severe cases,” he said.

Among the characteristics of the COVID-19 virus are increased rates of severe symptoms and deaths among older age groups. As of Wednesday, a total of 1,120,143 South Koreans aged 60 and up had not received even a single vaccine dose.

The current vaccine reservation rate for seniors is 1.05%, or 11,764 people.

Experts called for greater vaccination incentives as a way of encouraging the unvaccinated to get the jab.

“Since we’re poised to reach a complete vaccination rate of over 70% pretty soon, we may need to introduce vaccination incentives [proof of vaccination requirements] for places such as restaurants where lots of people gather,” suggested Eom Joong-sik, a professor of infectious disease at Gachon University Gil Medical Center.

Efforts will also be needed to persuade those who are shying away from vaccination due to concerns over adverse reactions.

“There are a lot of different reasons at play, but it’s possible that people who haven’t made reservations yet are concerned about adverse reactions,” said Choi Won-suk, a professor of infectious disease at Korea University Ansan Hospital.

“We need to share more epidemiological analysis data on adverse reactions, and it’s going to be important for us to communicate based on evidence,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Central Disease Control Headquarters (CDCH) released findings from a comparison of symptom severity based on vaccination history for 101,285 people who had received confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses at least 28 days earlier between May and Aug. 14.

Of the patients examined, 2,240 developed critical symptoms or died, giving a severe symptom rate of 2.21%. Within that group, 87.5% of patients were unvaccinated (1,959), while 10.8% (242) had received a single vaccine dose and 1.7% (39) had been fully vaccinated.

When standardized for age, the severe symptom rates were found to be 2.61% for the unvaccinated, 1% for those with a single dose, and 0.6% for those who had been fully vaccinated, providing a 77.0% rate of effectiveness in preventing severe symptoms.

The overall fatality rate was 0.28%. When standardized for age, the rates were 0.38% for the unvaccinated, 0.14% for those with a single dose, and 0.1% for those who had been fully vaccinated, indicating a 73.7% rate of effectiveness in preventing death.

By Seo Hye-mi, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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