S. Korea hits 70% vaccination mark, setting stage for return to normal

한겨레 입력 2021. 10. 25. 16:56
글자크기 설정 파란원을 좌우로 움직이시면 글자크기가 변경 됩니다.

이 글자크기로 변경됩니다.

(예시) 가장 빠른 뉴스가 있고 다양한 정보, 쌍방향 소통이 숨쉬는 다음뉴스를 만나보세요. 다음뉴스는 국내외 주요이슈와 실시간 속보, 문화생활 및 다양한 분야의 뉴스를 입체적으로 전달하고 있습니다.

Experts say the country will likely hit a maximum vaccination rate in the low 80% range
A person receives their COVID-19 vaccination at a vaccination site in Seoul’s Yeongdeungpo District on Sunday morning. On the righthand side of the photo, people who have received their vaccination can be seen sitting in a waiting room as they monitor for possible adverse reactions. (Baek So-ah/The Hankyoreh)

Coming two days ahead of schedule, 70% of South Korea’s population has now been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus — a target the government has reiterated as a first step in transitioning toward a gradual return to everyday life.

Experts predicted that the rate of full vaccination could eventually reach as high as the low 80% range, but added that measures will be needed to prevent an increase in infections among the unvaccinated and others once the “living with COVID-19” approach is adopted.

The COVID-19 vaccination response team announced Sunday that a total of 35,975,412 South Korean residents had been fully vaccinated as of that day, for a rate of 70.1% fully vaccinated in a population of 51,349,116 people (as of December 2020). Among adults aged 18 and over, the full vaccination rate was 81.5%.

South Korea passed the 70% milestone for full vaccination at around 2 pm on Saturday — 240 days after its first inoculations on Feb. 26 with the AstraZeneca vaccine. With disease control authorities having initially predicted that South Korea would reach a 70% full vaccination rate by Oct. 25, the achievement came around two days ahead of schedule.

The government plans to shift the focus of its disease control policies toward a gradual return to everyday life early next month, basing its approach on a comprehensive analysis of COVID-19 sickbeds and other healthcare system capacities as well as the rates of severe symptoms and death.

Among the plans under consideration are an easing of restrictions on operating hours for restaurants, cafes, and other businesses and the requirement of a “vaccine pass” — a certificate of vaccination — or negative COVID-19 test taken within the preceding 48 hours to prevent the virus from being spread by people entering nightlife establishments and other high-risk facilities.

South Korea arrived at its 70% rate of full vaccination faster than other countries that began administering their jabs much earlier.

According to the international statistics site Our World in Data, that rate had not yet been reached by several countries that began their vaccinations around three months before South Korea, including the US (57.7%), the UK (66.7%), France (67.5%), Germany (65.5%), and Israel (65.0%). Japan, which began administering shots nine days before South Korea, had a 69.0% rate of full vaccination.

Meanwhile, Portugal and Singapore both passed the 80% mark last month, with their current rates standing at 85.7% and 82.5%, respectively. At 79.6%, Spain is also poised to cross the 80% threshold.

South Korean disease control authorities predicted an 80% rate of full vaccination will be reached next month. While attending a parliamentary audit on Wednesday, Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong said, “I can’t say anything conclusive, but [an 80% full vaccination rate] could happen around November."

Based on the current situation with the unvaccinated population and other factors, experts predicted South Korea’s final full vaccination rate will be somewhere in the low 80% rate.

As of the end of the day Saturday, around 10.58 million South Korean residents had not received even one vaccine dose, while 4.44 million people — or 8.6% of the total population — are aged 11 and under, which means they are not currently eligible for vaccination. Current vaccination reservation rates stand at 60.9% for the 16–17 age group, and just 21.4% for the 12–15 age group.

Analyses also indicate that around 1%–3% of people who experienced adverse reactions after their first vaccine dose do not intend to get a second.

“The maximum full vaccination rate will probably be somewhere in the low to mid-80% range,” predicted Kim Yoon, a professor of health policy and management at Seoul National University.

“As for the remaining unvaccinated population, their biggest concern is about adverse reactions, which means the government should be sending a new message about recognizing adverse reactions from vaccines and offering broad-ranging support for medical costs,” he advised.

“For people with underlying conditions and compromised immune systems, it also needs to provide persuasive information about infection [with the virus] is an even greater risk [than vaccines],” he said.

Jung Jae-hun, a professor of preventive medicine at Gachon University, said, “Judging from South Korea’s population structure and other factors, I think the endpoint will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 83%.”

“Since we’re not going to overcome the pandemic crisis without vaccinations, we need to work to persuade the unvaccinated, while preparing for a rise in confirmed cases [among the unvaccinated population] by being as gradual as possible about relaxing disease control restrictions,” he said.

By Lee Jae-ho and Kwon Ji-dam, staff reporters

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

Copyright© 한겨레. 무단전재 및 재배포 금지.

이 기사에 대해 어떻게 생각하시나요?