Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum speaks during a meeting with local students and parents, held in central Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum on Wednesday held an offline meeting with parents and students to reassure the safety of vaccination for children, amid a growing backlash against the government’s inoculation policy for the adolescent population.
Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae and Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong also joined the meeting held in central Seoul, where some 20 students and parents also participated.
“The government has carefully reviewed many aspects since (vaccinating the adolescent population) is directly related to the lives and safety of the future generation,” Kim said during the meeting.
“The government has decided to vaccinate the adolescent population after the government concluded that it is the best way at this moment,” Kim added.
Although the top government officials have endeavored to reduce parents’ concerns about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for their children, it remains uncertain if the vaccination rate for kids will speed up.
As of Tuesday, South Korea has fully vaccinated over 92 percent of its adults, while 18 percent have received a booster shot.
However, the percentage of Korea’s 2.76 million 12- to 17-year-olds who are fully vaccinated remains at around 38 percent.
The data also showed that the vaccination rate for the 12-15 age group was far lower than that of the 16-17 group. Only 24.2 percent of the 12-15 age group was fully vaccinated, while 67.3 percent of the 16-17 group completed the full two-dose series.
That means 1.22 million children in the 12-17 age group have not been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, a parents association held a protest right outside the building where the meeting was held.
The parents association criticized the government for its inoculation policy for children, which the association deemed as a compulsory measure.
The government earlier said those aged 12 or older will have to show a vaccine pass to enter public spaces. The policy, however, has been met with criticism from some parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.
Faced with opposition, the government said it will make some adjustments in the introduction of the vaccine pass system.
As parents and their kids hesitate to get vaccinated, the government had to also postpone its outreach vaccination program at schools.
The government previously announced that it will dispatch medical staff to schools to administer vaccines to those aged between 12-17.
However, of 1.22 million children who are not vaccinated, only 6.9 percent answered they are willing to get vaccinated at their schools, to the government’s survey.
By Shim Woo-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org