Only 3 out of 10 South Koreans said they plan to get vaccinated for COVID-
19 as soon as possible, while the rest said they want to take a wait-and-see approach, a survey showed Thursday.
According to a survey of 1,094 adults from Jan. 8-10 by the Seoul National University Graduate School of Public Health, 67.7 percent of the respondents said they will wait and see how the coronavirus vaccine is working for others before getting the shots themselves.
Only 28.6 percent said they want to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
The majority of those surveyed said they expect the coronavirus vaccines to become widely available this year -- in the middle of the year (42 percent) or near the end of the year (35.4 percent). Some 11.2 percent predicted the vaccines will be commercialized next year or thereafter.
On the conditions that the vaccines are available for free and their safety is guaranteed, 80.3 percent replied that they will certainly (27.1 percent) or probably (53.2 percent) take COVID-19 vaccinations in the future. Only 1.8 percent said they will never get the shots.
Asked the same question by the US-based nonprofit organization the Kaiser Family Foundation, 71 percent of the 1,676 Americans surveyed said they will get vaccinated. Some 15 percent said they will never get the jabs.
In general, the level of trust in the vaccines and Korea’s health system among Koreans was relatively high.
When asked whether they agreed with the statements “I don’t trust Korea’s health system,” “I don’t trust most of the vaccines” and “I don’t trust the government enough to believe that the vaccines are safe and effective,” the majority of respondents said no -- 78.5 percent, 67.5 percent and 53.7 percent, respectively.
Just over half of the respondents expressed confidence in the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines (50.3 percent), while 43.6 percent said they were not sure.
There was also an increase in the level of trust toward science, with 47.6 percent of the respondents saying they trust science more than before. Only 11.4 percent said they have come to distrust science more than in the past.
Despite a recent downward trend in the number of daily coronavirus cases, 51.9 percent of the Koreans thought the worst is yet to come in the third wave of infections.
On the back of the strict social distancing rules that have been in place over the past weeks, Korea has slowed its infection rate. The daily coronavirus tally hovered around 1,000 late last month, but had fallen to 632 as of Jan. 8, when the survey was carried out.
Korea reported 524 more coronavirus cases on Thursday.
The poll comes as the government seeks to vaccinate about 60 percent to 70 percent of the country’s 51 million people by November.
Health authorities are set to begin the COVID-19 vaccination program in phases next month, starting with the elderly and medical professionals at high-risk facilities. Vaccinations will start in July at the earliest for those aged between 19 and 49.
The government has secured enough COVID-19 vaccines for 56 million people from four pharmaceutical companies and via the COVAX facility, the WHO-led global vaccine distribution project.
President Moon Jae-in said Monday that all Koreans will be provided with COVID-19 vaccines for free.
Despite the World Health Organization playing down the possibility of mass vaccinations leading to herd immunity this year, the Korean government said it plans to achieve herd immunity by November.
Herd immunity occurs when enough people in a population -- some 70 percent, by the government’s estimate -- are immune to an infection so that it prevents the disease from spreading.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org