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Mixed messages on children's vaccines confuse parents

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A student receives a coronavirus vaccine at a clinic in Yangcheon District, Seoul, Oct. 18. Joint Press Corps
A student receives a coronavirus vaccine at a clinic in Yangcheon District, Seoul, Oct. 18. Joint Press Corps

Vaccine pass system may be expanded to children

By Lee Hyo-jin

Mixed messages being sent by the government and medical experts on COVID-19 vaccination for children are creating confusion among parents, who are weighing the risks and benefits of inoculation following the full resumption of in-person classes at schools.

Authorities are "strongly recommending" parents to vaccinate their children, following a recent surge in infections among people aged under 18, but some health experts are calling for a prudent approach considering potential side effects.

The infection rate of minors outstripped that of adults for the first time in October, according to a study conducted by Choi Eun-hwa, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Seoul National University.

During the four weeks from Sept. 26 to Oct. 23, 99.7 out of every 100,000 children aged under 18 were infected, compared to 76 out of 100,000 people aged 19 or older.

Citing such data, the education ministry encouraged parents and guardians to sign their children up for vaccine injections, expressing concerns over the low inoculation rate. As of Thursday, the full vaccination rate among children aged between 12 and 17 stood at 18.7 percent, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

But some medical experts are calling for a more prudent approach.

Seo Joo-hyun, an emergency physician Myeongji Hospital believes parents should more carefully weigh the risks and benefits of the vaccine on children, saying that she has seen an increasing number of minors in the emergency room suffering from side effects of the injections.

Students attend class at an elementary school in Dobong District of Seoul, Nov.22, the first day of the full resumption of in-person classes. Joint Press Corps
Students attend class at an elementary school in Dobong District of Seoul, Nov.22, the first day of the full resumption of in-person classes. Joint Press Corps

"I've recently seen many teenagers coming into the ER after receiving the vaccine, displaying breathing difficulties, fever, headaches and fatigue. There was a patient who suffered from myocarditis although the blood test results were normal," she said during a discussion session organized by the Korea Medical Association.

"Though more studies are needed on the casual links of side effects and the vaccine, we should thoroughly weigh up the potential risks and benefits of the vaccine on children," she added.

Meanwhile, health authorities are considering expanding the "vaccine pass" system to children aged above 12. The vaccine pass, which requires a vaccination certificate or a negative test result upon entering multiuse facilities, is currently applied only to adults aged over 18.

Some parents view that such a move goes against the government's policy that unvaccinated teenagers will not face inconveniences or discrimination.

"Expanding the vaccine pass to children is virtually forcing the vaccine on them, by making unvaccinated children face disadvantages. This seems like a highly inappropriate measure to take for the young kids," wrote an internet user on an online community for mothers.

"My 15-year-old son initially refused to receive the vaccine, but after hearing the news about the vaccine pass, he says he wants to sign up for the dose. I'm not sure whether I should consent because I'm still worried something might go wrong," wrote another user.

The government will announce Monday its finalized plan on the vaccine pass policy on minors, along with whether to strengthen quarantine measures.

In response to the unrelenting COVID-19 cases and critically-ill patients, the health ministry initially said it would announce Friday additional measures such as reinstating some of the social distancing rules.

But the plan has been pushed back to Monday, as health officials, medical experts and groups representing the self-employed, have failed to reach a conclusion during a meeting which took place on Thursday.


Lee Hyo-jin lhj@koreatimes.co.kr


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