SEOUL, March 14 (Korea Bizwire) — The government will begin vaccinating children aged 5-11 against COVID-19 late this month, Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol said Monday.
The safety of COVID-19 vaccines for children has been sufficiently proven abroad while COVID-19 patients aged 11 or under have surpassed 15 percent of all cases in the country, Jeon said during a COVID-19 response meeting.
“The government will carry out vaccination for young children aged between 5-11, who have been excluded from inoculation, from late March,” he said.
Vaccination for the age group will begin on March 31 at 1,200 clinics nationwide, with reservations available starting on March 24, the minister added.
The government approved the use of Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine for the age group last month ahead of the reopening of schools for the new spring semester in early March.
On Monday, the government will also begin administering a third vaccine booster shot for teenagers aged 12-17 who completed their two-dose vaccination at least three months ago, Jeon said.
The omicron wave is expected to enter its “peak period” this week, the minister said.
“The daily average of seriously ill COVID-19 patients reached 1,032 last week, jumping 35.7 percent from the previous week, but the hospital bed occupancy rate for them remained at around 66.8 percent,” he noted.
Jeon also said the government will retain the current antivirus management system for high-risk people while revising the testing and confirming systems according to reality.
Later in the day, the education ministry said high-risk children with underlying diseases in the age group would be “strongly” recommended to get vaccinated, but for the rest of the children in the age group, the decision would be left entirely up to individual choice.
A total of 3.07 million children will be entitled to get vaccinated in the plan, it also said.
“I am advising that there should be no atmosphere of prodding vaccination, nor any cases of discrimination based on vaccination, as vaccination is recommendation-based and is up to the choice of individuals,” Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said.