Convince the young first

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Convince the young first

 Health authorities are mulling about whether to enforce the vaccine pass, referred to as “quarantine pass” in Korea, on teenagers of 12 to 18 years from Feb. 1. The plan has stoked concerns and controversy. Authorities stress the need to vaccinate teenagers to help curb the virus spread and fatality rate. Korea’s quarantine measures are strengthening in the face of the worsening Covid-19 situation and the spread of the Omicron variant. But the government must not overlook the apprehension of parents and students.

A quarantine pass — which can be a two-shot vaccination certificate, a negative test result issued within 48 hours, proof of Covid-19 recovery within six months or a doctor’s note for vaccination exemption — will be required in facilities frequented by teenagers, such as cram schools, study rooms and cafes and libraries, which is more or less mandating vaccinations on minors.

The thought is totalitarian. Unvaccinated youngsters will be restricted from using their frequently visited facilities. The government claims that since a PCR test result is an option, vaccination is not mandatory. But they should be tested every other day since the test result is only valid for 48 hours. The timing of vaccination is also controversial. Teenagers will have to get vaccinated before Christmas, given that it takes 14 days to build up immunity after their second shot. They will have to get shots during their end-semester exam period.

The bigger controversy is the government’s infringement on the right to learn. Restricting access to after-school facilities whereas school classes are normalized does not make sense. Enforcing the vaccine pass on study facilities while leaving out religious facilities and department stores used by the masses is also not fair. A high school sophomore residing in Daegu uploaded a petition opposing the pass plan on the Blue House website that garnered over 240,000 signatures.

The government has lost public confidence in quarantine actions. It repeatedly said that vaccinations for teenagers was up to individuals. Teenagers are more fretful about the side effects than older citizens. The government should have tried to pitch the safety of vaccines and share objective data on side effects to convince the young. But the government has made little effort since it started vaccinating teenagers from August. The government must moderate the policy on a quarantine pass or the validity of test results to come up with a measure that can better convince the people.
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