Should President Moon be 1st in line for COVID-19 vaccine?

23-Feb-2021 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

President Moon Jae-in has faced calls from the conservative main opposition party to be the first recipient of Korea’s administration of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, as public concerns have deepened due to the government’s inconsistent stance on the matter, leading to questions of its safety and efficacy, especially for the elderly.

In response, some members of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) slammed the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) for treating the head of the state as “something to be experimented on.”

The political disputes over whether Moon should be vaccinated first came ahead of the start of the government’s COVID-19 inoculation programme with AstraZeneca’s vaccine this coming Friday, and Pfiser’s vaccine on Saturday.

Former four-term conservative lawmaker Yoo Seong-min of the PPP said President Moon should receive AstraZeneca’s vaccine first to ease public fears.

“As the government and pro-government figures have invited public distrust over the safety of (AstraZeneca’s) vaccine, President Moon should receive the shot first, followed by the health minister, drug safety minister and Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) commissioner, to set an example and dispel worries,” Yoo wrote on Facebook, Friday.

President Moon, 68, said during a New Year’s press conference that he would “not avoid (receiving the shot first) if somebody needs to set an example.”

Yoo’s request came at a time when the government’s inconsistent attitude over AstraZeneca’s vaccine has worsened public concerns over its safety and efficacy.

On February 1, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it reached a conclusion that AstraZeneca’s vaccine can be administered to the elderly, noting that significant problems have not been reported, although supporting evidence was seen as somewhat insufficient.

But on February 10, when the ministry approved the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Korea, it said whether to administer the vaccine to the elderly should be decided carefully, according to the health condition of each senior citizen aged 65 or older.

This caused confusion among medical personnel and the public, and eventually led the government to postpone the inoculation of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to people aged 65 or older.

The KDCA said, February 15, the first group of people who will get AstraZeneca’s vaccine will be workers and patients under the age of 65 at geriatric hospitals and nursing homes.

Following Yoo’s request, Rep. Jung Chung-rae of the DPK wrote on Facebook, Sunday, “Yoo was insulting the President by treating him as something to be experimented on.”

“If the President gets the shot first, you’ll claim he enjoys privilege over ordinary citizens. If he has any problems (after getting the shot), you may gloat over it,” he wrote.

Jung’s comment drew criticism from many, with Kim Geun-sik who heads the PPP’s strategy division saying, “Then, do you think citizens deserve to become the subjects of an experiment? Some leaders of other countries have already received shots to dispel public worries.”

US President Joe Biden received the first and second dose of the Pfiser/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Delaware, on December 21 and January 11, respectively, when he was president-elect. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu also received the Pfiser vaccine, December 19, becoming the first Israeli citizen to have been vaccinated.

Regarding the issue, a high-level official from Cheong Wa Dae said the presidential office is not currently considering giving the first vaccine to President Moon.

The official also refuted the argument that there is public distrust over AstraZeneca’s vaccine, noting that more than 90 percent of people at geriatric hospitals and nursing homes have shown their willingness to receive the shot.

“But we will not rule out the possibility of the President receiving the shot first, if public distrust develops,” the official told reporters.


Category: Korea

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