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6 out of 10 people in S. Korea worried about side effects of COVID-19 vaccines

A health care worker prepares a vaccine dose for inoculation. (Yonhap)
A health care worker prepares a vaccine dose for inoculation. (Yonhap)

More than 6 out of 10 South Koreans feel unsafe taking the COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out in the country, compared with fewer than 3 in 10 in the UK, a global survey has found.

According to the comparative study conducted by Cigna, an international health care and insurance company, some 64 percent of 1,031 people surveyed in Korea answered that they were worried about the side effects of the jabs available in the country. This was slightly higher than the global average of 62 percent.

The survey involved 13,479 people aged 18 or older in 11 countries -- Korea, the US, China, the UK, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain and Taiwan.

People in countries that have managed the pandemic relatively well have more worries about the vaccines, the study found.

In Hong Kong, 86 percent of respondents expressed worries and 31 percent said they felt safe with the COVID-19 vaccines available there. In Taiwan, those who said they were worried accounted for 77 percent of all respondents.

New Zealand and Singapore, which also are considered to have managed the COVID-19 pandemic well, were exceptions. Most survey respondents from those countries said they trusted in the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines -- 63 percent and 69 percent, respectively.

People from the US and the UK -- both of which have seen high case numbers -- were relatively less worried about the potential side effects of COVID-19 vaccines. Only 47 percent of US respondents and 23 percent of UK respondents expressed concerns about the vaccines.

The percentage of survey respondents from the US who said they felt safe with its COVID-19 vaccines totaled 63 percent. For the UK, the figure was 83 percent.

Cigna said people’s concerns over side effects could reflect how much they trusted their governments and the local health authorities.

Cigna’s survey also showed that concerns over side effects closely correlated to willingness to be inoculated.

Seven out of 10 people from Hong Kong and Taiwan said they would wait and see how the COVID-19 vaccines worked for others before getting them.

In Korea, 54 percent of the survey respondents expressed worries about being vaccinated before others. The response rate for people in Korea who answered that they didn’t know much about COVID-19 vaccines reached 40 percent. The corresponding figure for Taiwan was 45 percent.

In the UK, only 17 percent of the survey respondents said they would wait and see, while 39 percent of the US respondents said they would watch the situation.

Cigna advised governments, health authorities, medical institutions, pharmaceutical companies and media platforms to work together to increase the credibility of vaccines.

By Shim Woo-hyun (