March 15, 2022
SEOUL – South Korea will make COVID-19 vaccinations available to children aged between 5 and 11 later this month, the government announced Monday.
According to Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol‘s announcement at a COVID-19 response meeting Monday, the government will begin inoculating children on March 31 at around 1,200 designated medical facilities. The country’s health authorities will take reservations from March 24, Jeon added.
Jeon said the government’s decision came amid an increasing number of COVID-19 infections among children. According to Jeon, children aged under 11 currently account for more than 15 percent of all COVID-19 patients.
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty, which was approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety for children aged 5 to 11 last month, is expected to be used.
The increases in the number of children infected with COVID-19 have come in line with the fast spread of the omicron variant over the past weeks.
In the first week of March, the daily average of COVID-19 patients reached 190,000. The figure, however, jumped to 280,000 last week.
On Saturday, the country reported an all-time high of 383,664 for the 24 hours of Friday, with the figure dropping to 350,190 the following day. For Sunday, South Korea‘s health authorities added 309,790 COVID-19 cases, reporting over 300,000 COVID-19 daily cases for a third consecutive day.
The country‘s total caseload has now reached 6,866,222.
According to the government, daily COVID-19 infections will, however, rebound throughout this week. Jeon also mentioned that the peak of the omicron wave here will arrive this week or next week at the latest.
Along with recent increases in the number of COVID-19 infections, the country is seeing notable increases in severe cases.
As of midnight Sunday, the number of critically ill patients reached an all-time high of 1,158, up 84 from the previous day.
The bed occupancy rate in intensive care units for critically ill patients also climbed 2.7 percentage points to 66.8 percent from a day earlier.
South Korea’s health authorities said the government currently expects the number of severe cases to reach some 2,000 by the end of this month.
During the 24 hours of Sunday, the country also added 200 deaths, pushing the death toll from COVID-19 to 10,595. The fatality rate stands at 0.15 percent.
As the omicron-fueled wave is expected to peak fairly soon, the government will begin discussing options to ease the existing social distancing rules further. Son Young-rae, the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s spokesperson, said Monday that the government will start reviewing options to adjust the current social distancing rules.
The country’s social distancing rules include an 11 p.m. curfew on businesses and a six-person limit on private gatherings.