Public pressure on Covid-19 vaccinations mounts in one of the most heavily vaccinated countries in the world as protesters in South Korea demand accountability for deaths they attribute to the vaccinations.
Protesters gathered in Busan on Sunday after a similar rally took place in Seoul on Boxing Day. Angry protesters held up large portraits of deceased family members – as they are commonly shown at funerals in South Korea – and told how their loved ones died shortly after being vaccinated against Covid-19.
Dozens of portraits of the deceased were seen at the demonstration in front of the government building in Seoul on Saturday. The protesters called on the government to investigate the causes of the side effects and to admit that the vaccines were to blame.
More than 1,000 South Koreans died shortly after receiving a Covid-19 vaccination, but the government has only confirmed a causal relationship with the vaccines in a few of these cases. In one of the rare cases where a Serious Adverse Reaction was recognized, a nurse was recognized as a victim of an industrial accident and received government benefits in August after suffering paralysis as a result of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccination.
Just a week after the Covid-19 vaccine was launched in late February and early March, the South Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency announced that seven people had died and 24 had reported serious adverse reactions after being given the AstraZeneca vaccine. The government reportedly opened an investigation in August after an unhealthy teenager died after being vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine.
An association called the Covid-19 Vaccine Victims and Families Council has held rallies in several South Korean cities. According to Yonhap News, protesters moved from Busan City Hall to the Busan National University of Education on Sunday.
Vaccine safety could become a hot topic in South Korea’s presidential election. The opposition People’s Power Party held a public hearing last week on the side effects of vaccines and urged alleged victims and their families to come up with suggestions for support measures that presidential candidate Yoon Seok-yeol could adopt.
Kim Jong-in, the party’s leader, reportedly accused President Moon Jae-in’s government of being indifferent to vaccine harm. The government is committed to compensating victims of vaccine side effects, but it also makes decisions about whether injuries and deaths were due to the vaccinations. “I think people have reached a point where they can no longer trust the government,” said Kim.
South Korea typically has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world for various vaccines, and Covid-19 vaccinations are no exception. About 83% of South Koreans are vaccinated against Covid-19, which is by far the highest rate among the G20 countries.