Ameliorate public anxietyToo much talk from a number of government officials is amplifying public anxiety and confusion over the slow-moving vaccine program. Instead of presenting a clear outline and data on the much-awaited vaccination, they pour out unconfirmed and unfinished deal-making to help ease pubic apprehension but only fuel skepticism, further undermining confidence in the government.
The Ministry of Interior and Safety and the Ministry of Health and Welfare have been contradictory about the vaccine supply timetable. In an interview on May 10, Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol said that a supply of 18.3 million doses, including or 14.2 million doses in May-June, will arrive by the first half. The ministry backed his comment with a statement on the details. After an additional investigation, a media outlet reported that 5.3 million doses of Pfizer vaccines and 8.9 million doses of AstraZeneca’s are due in May and June.
The Health Ministry denied the report and refused to confirm the supply progress citing a confidentiality agreement with vaccine makers, and accused the media of over hyped reports. The ministries on the pan-government Central Disaster Safety Countermeasure Headquarters headed by the prime minister are attributing the mismatch between the two ministries to the media. Moreover, it is outdated to think that they can keep vaccine information a secret when it involves public safety.
Lack of tongue constraint also added confusion about consigned manufacturing of vaccines in Korea. Baek Young-ha, head of the government taskforce on vaccine procurement, last month said that a drugmaker in Korea is in talks with a certified vaccine maker to produce a large amount of Covid-19 vaccines in Korea from August. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) also confirmed that a domestic bio company is discussing the production of mRNA vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the mRNA type authorized in the United States.
But a local company allegedly consigned with vaccine production denied the report. The over-excitement by authorities only fueled hope and disappointment.
Those eligible for the first shot cannot expect when their time will arrive due to repeated delays from shortages. Distrust has caused many to shun vaccination on top of media reports of side effects. Authorities must study the root of the cynicism. In a press conference Monday commemorating his fourth year in office, President Moon Jae-in indirectly blamed the opposition and media for aggravating public anxieties. But before they blame others, they must look within for undermining confidence in the government’s inoculation program.