Slowly, Korea starts recognizing overseas vaccinations

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Slowly, Korea starts recognizing overseas vaccinations

An international student at Keimyung University receives a Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Daegu. [NEWS1]

An international student at Keimyung University receives a Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Daegu. [NEWS1]

 
Korea is slowly starting to recognize overseas vaccinations.
 
Visitors who have been given quarantine exemption certificates to enter Korea can have their overseas vaccinations recognized here to take advantage of incentives, such as gathering in public in larger numbers.
 
United States Forces Korea (USFK) personnel and diplomats and their families will also be recognized if they were vaccinated overseas.
 
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) and the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced new guidelines for recognizing overseas vaccinations on Tuesday.
 
“Until now, there was an inconvenience for people who were vaccinated abroad as they couldn’t prove their vaccination record and weren’t subject to vaccine incentives,” Son Young-rae, a senior epidemiological strategist at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, said in a briefing on Tuesday.
 
“It is necessary to solve these problems to further support the phased recovery to normal life focusing on vaccinated people,” said Son.
 
Overseas vaccinations are still not recognized for visitors from abroad, most of whom must do 14-day quarantines at their own expense. The exception is a limited category of people coming for important business, academic, public interest or humanitarian purposes. They can apply for quarantine exemption certificates before traveling to Korea, and then enter the country without quarantine.
 
But they couldn’t benefit from domestic vaccine incentives as Korea didn't have a system to check the validity of foreign vaccination records.
 
The government decided to issue vaccine certificates to people vaccinated overseas gradually, starting with those who received quarantine exemption certificates when entering Korea, USFK personnel, diplomats and their families.
 
The only vaccines accepted are those that have received World Health Organization (WHO) approval for emergency use: Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen, AstraZeneca, Covishield (AstraZeneca vaccine by Serum Institute of India), Sinopharm and Sinovac. Two weeks must have passed since the inoculation.
 
To get one's vaccination recognized, a person must visit a public health center and submit an overseas vaccination record and quarantine exemption certificate. They will receive a digital vaccine certificate from the mobile application COOV, or a paper certificate.
 
Vaccination records can be viewed in the COOV application from Thursday, which people vaccinated abroad can present as a proof of inoculation.
 
Vaccine certificates for USFK personnel will be issued in a separate paper certificate format.
 
“We will also soon recognize the vaccination record for Korean nationals who have completed vaccination abroad and entered the country without receiving a quarantine exemption,” Son said.
 
“We plan to come up with specific measures for foreigners as well.”
 
Meanwhile, health authorities said they are still discussing introducing vaccine passports, or a Covid health pass system similar to those used overseas. The government earlier announced that it was considering a system in which only fully vaccinated people with vaccine passes could go to restaurants and bars. An unvaccinated person would have to present a recent negative PCR test result.
 
“A vaccine pass would not be a permanent system, but a system to be introduced during the transition period for a phased recovery to normal life,” Son said. “It is currently under review and has not been confirmed yet.”
 
Son explained that the government has yet to decide on many details. In Israel, for example, its Covid health pass system, called the “Green Pass,” is valid for six months since a person’s last shot — raising the possibility that Koreans may have to receive a shot every six months.
 
As of Monday midnight, 77.4 percent of Korea’s population had received one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 53 percent had been fully vaccinated, according to the KDCA.
 
The country reported 1,575 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, including 1,557 local infections, raising the total caseload to 321,352.
 
Eleven more deaths were added, bringing the death toll to 2,524.
 
With the recent surge in Covid-19 patients, health authorities plan to expand home treatment for patients who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Tuesday that the government will come up with guidelines for a home treatment system within this week.
 
“Currently, we are expanding the subject to home treatment for Covid-19, which was operated on a trial basis mainly for children and adolescents, to adults, especially who have mild or no symptoms,” Son said. 
 
“A counseling team of medical staff contacts patients once or twice a day to check for any special symptoms and abnormalities,” Son explained. “In case there’s something wrong, an ambulance is sent to hospitalize patients or accommodate them [in a separate facility] for short periods to provide treatment.”

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun1@joongang.co.kr]
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