Grade school kids to get jabs starting March 31
Korea will start vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11 for Covid-19 on March 31.
The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters announced Monday that appointments for Covid-19 vaccines for children between those ages — estimated to be around 3.07 million — will open up on March 24. The vaccines will begin March 31 at designated medical institutions nationwide.
Until now, only people 12 or older had been eligible for vaccination in Korea.
Authorities explained they decided to expand the eligible age group for vaccination given the increasing number of infected children.
“We took into consideration that the safety and effectiveness [of vaccines for children] have been sufficiently proven abroad,” Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol said in a virus meeting on Monday, “and that Covid-19 patients aged 11 or under have surpassed 15 percent of the total.”
Pfizer’s special vaccine for children will be used. The vaccine, which was authorized for use by the country’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety on Feb. 23, contains one-third the dose of regular vaccines, includes different ingredients and uses a different preparation method.
The Pfizer vaccine for kids is administered two times with a 56-day, or eight-week, interval. Children who need a second shot sooner due to medical or personal reasons will be allowed to get a second shot after 21 days, or three weeks.
Reservations will be available from March 24 on the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) website (ncvr.kdca.go.kr), while those wishing to get a vaccine on the same day can reserve by phone from March 31.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety had announced that based on a clinical trials conducted on 3,109 children between the ages of 5 and 11 from the United States, Finland, Poland and Spain, the vaccine had 90.7 percent of efficacy in preventing Covid-19.
The government made vaccination voluntary for healthy children, but strongly advised children in high-risk groups to get vaccinated. This includes kids with weak immunity; diabetes; obesity; chronic lung, heart, liver and kidney disease; neuromuscular disease; and kids living in group facilities such as social welfare facilities due to chronic diseases.
However, vaccination is not recommended for healthy children who caught the virus in the past, either before or after receiving a first shot.
Although health authorities assured the public of the vaccine's safety, some parents weren't fully convinced.
“I’m afraid to administer the vaccine to my daughter [for safety reasons],” said Ms. Lee, a mother of a 9-year-old daughter. “I also wonder whether it’s effective.”
Mr. Joo, a father of two daughters aged five and six, said, “As vaccines form the basic immune system and help prevent Covid-19 or severe illness, I’m willing to inoculate my children,” while adding, “I do have worries over its side effects.”
At the end of last year, the government faced a stiff backlash to its "strong recommendation" of vaccinations for adolescents between the ages of 12 to 17 in a bid to reopen schools. It also planned to enforce a vaccine pass system for adolescents in educational facilities such as hagwon (cram schools) and reading rooms.
Amid high anxiety over the safety of vaccines among students and parents, criticism continued that the government is mandating vaccination for minors. Eventually, the youth vaccine pass was scrapped without being implemented after a series of lawsuits.
With the peak of the Omicron wave expected to arrive this month, some also questioned the effectiveness of vaccination.
“As the peak is expected to arrive before April, children's vaccinations are not directly for normal school attendance but rather for the health of students, and we will promote them with the idea of first inoculating high-risk students with underlying conditions,” said Ryu Hye-sook, a director of student support services at the Ministry of Education.
Meanwhile, booster inoculations for minors between the ages of 12 and 17 were made available from Monday. Adolescents in this age group who had their second shot three months ago could get a booster at designated medical facilities nationwide.
BY SEO JI-EUN [email@example.com]