Raising public trust in vaccines first

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Raising public trust in vaccines first

After daily Covid-19 cases exceeded 40,000, the government on Wednesday announced its first guidelines on quarantine and medical systems to curb the spread. The public health authorities presented detailed countermeasures devised by an advisory committee on infectious diseases led by Jung Ki-suck, a professor at Hallym University Medical School and a former head of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

What attracts our attention in the announcements is the expansion of the age group eligible for a fourth vaccination from people older than 60 to those 50 and over. The guidelines also demand citizens older than 18 with an underlying disease and the homeless housed in a facility also get a fourth shot to help reduce their health risks.

Underscoring the need for a fourth inoculation to prevent exacerbation of illness from the virus, Prime Minister Han Duk-soo who serves as head of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, strongly recommended the target groups in particular get vaccinations. A fourth shot is recommended, not required. But if the recommendation is to be effective, the government must recover public trust in vaccine policies first.

During the Moon Jae-in administration, public distrust and fatigue over vaccines was widespread due to the government’s stringent quarantine measures, discrimination against those not vaccinated and a lack of measures to deal with unwanted side effects of vaccines. Pessimism over the effect of vaccination prevailed after the fast spread of the Omicron variants.

The Yoon Suk-yeol administration must first elevate the ratio of fourth vaccinations for citizens aged 60 and over from the current 35 percent. To do that, it must provide more reliable information and explanations to citizens and take responsibility for side effects of vaccines. The government has decided to not introduce tough social distancing rules such as restricting operating hours for restaurants and cafes, capping the number of people allowed for gatherings and forcing people to wear face masks outdoors. The public health authorities are convinced of our medical system’s ability to deal with a maximum 200,000 daily cases.

The Yoon administration plans to encourage people to keep social distancing voluntarily. As the government alone cannot solve the problem, citizens must help overcome the pandemic. The KDCA predicted a peak of up to 200,000 daily cases between September and October. Even though social distancing is not being enforced, citizens must raise their guard for a while, including abiding by personal hygiene guidelines and getting Covid tests at hospitals if necessary. It takes a village to control the monster.
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