Year two of pandemic: What’s in store for Korea

01-Jan-2021 Intellasia | Koreaherald | 7:23 AM Print This Post

Much of 2021 will be a repeat of 2020. But as vaccines enter the scene, some experts say some form of normalcy might begin to return by the year’s end.

Infectious disease expert Dr Kim Woo-joo of Korea University Medical centre said the second year of the pandemic will be characterised by the “vaccine divide” at a global level.

“You might need to be vaccinated if you want to travel this year, for instance,” he said. As of Thursday, around 25 countries have reported their first inoculations against COVID-19.

He said South Korea should aim to “keep pace with its neighbours so that cross-border exchanges can resume at around the same time.” The Summer Olympics in Tokyo, he said, may become a showcase for how successful each government has been in inoculating its people.

Once Korea receives its share of vaccines, the rollout could proceed faster than in other parts of the world because of its vaccine acceptance among the public, he said. According to a recent poll by Gallup Korea, 87 percent of Koreans said they were willing to get the jabs when they become available here.

How the next phase of the pandemic might play out “depends on the government’s ability to secure enough vaccines in time,” said Dr Jun Byung-yool, who was the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director from 2011 to 2013.

“It is the government’s responsibility to do everything in its power to ensure vaccinations can begin as promptly as possible,” he said, adding that failing to do so would be “one of the gravest errors the government can make in a pandemic.”

Key details are missing from the vaccine announcements so far, making it difficult to predict how far away Korea might be from the goal of herd immunity, according to public health policy expert Dr Jung Jae-hun of Gachon University.

The very first doses of COVID-19 vaccine will reach Korea in February, the presidential office said Tuesday. Still, it’s unclear exactly how many people will be covered in each stage of distribution.

“We have a tentative date for when the vaccinations will kick off. But what really matters is when we will have sufficient doses to meet the immunisation targets,” he said.

“For all we know, we may only have a small, symbolic amount brought in in February, with subsequent supplies put off until later. It might take several months before we have access to quantities necessary to vaccinate a meaningful proportion of the Korean population.”


Category: Korea

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