|People wait in line for coronavirus testing at a public health center in Songpa District, southeastern Seoul, Thursday. Yonhap|
Daily new infections surge to all-time high at 3,292
By Lee Hyo-jin
The government's inconsistent COVID-19 vaccination policies are inconveniencing the public, with some beginning to lose trust in the inoculation program due to frequent changes to dose intervals and age limits.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) announced Wednesday the shortening of the interval between primary vaccinations and booster shots to four months, from the previous six, for people aged over 60 and residents at nursing homes.
The dosage gap will be reduced to five months for those aged over 50, as well as priority groups including police officers, firefighters and soldiers.
In addition, the government has suspended the administration of the Moderna vaccine on individuals aged under 30 due to higher risk of heart inflammation in that age group. Beginning Thursday, those who have received a first Moderna dose will be administered with a Pfizer one for their second dose.
The health authorities view that a swift rollout of booster shots is crucial at this point when the country is facing setbacks in its COVID-19 pandemic exit strategy due to a continuing rise in the number of seriously ill patients and daily infections.
However, the flip-flopping on inoculation policies has led to public confusion and opposition to vaccination.
A 27-year-old Seoul resident surnamed Jeon, who was fully vaccinated with Moderna in late October, said, "The decision to suspend Moderna on people in their 20s made me very nervous. I don't understand why the government has made such a belated decision when many young people have already received the vaccine.
"Also, the government had previously restricted mixing Moderna with other products, but it has reversed its own policy. It is doubtful whether they are making the decisions based on scientific data."
|A medical worker at Seoul National University Hospital in central Seoul receives a COVID-19 booster shot, Oct. 25. Yonhap|
"I won't be surprised if the government decides to move up the booster shot schedule again, as they did so with regular vaccination intervals in August," said an office worker in his 50s who received his final dose of Pfizer in early September. "Abrupt changes in the inoculation schedule cause inconvenience to office workers who need to preemptively schedule vaccination leave."
Some are hesitant to get booster shots due to side effects they suffered after the primary vaccinations.
A 55-year-old housewife surnamed Park, who was fully vaccinated with Pfizer, said, "I experienced chest pain and heart pounding after my second dose. Although it did not lead to anything more serious, I don't think I will risk getting a third dose."
Critics believe that the government should increase efforts to ensure vaccine safety to encourage public compliance with booster shots.
"Some of my outpatients ask why they should receive the vaccine when it is not 100 percent effective at preventing infections, while some refuse inoculation due to concerns over adverse effects," said Kim Woo-joo, an infectious disease specialist at Korea University Guro Hospital.
"The government should come up with a plan to alleviate public concern," he said, adding that rapid administration of booster shots is important in preventing a possible increase in infections that could arise from the period when end-of-year gatherings are numerous.
According to the KDCA, the daily new cases for Wednesday reached an all-time high of 3,292, among which 3,372 were local transmissions. The number of critically ill patients was 506, a slight decrease from the record-high figure of 522 the previous day.