People receive coronavirus vaccines at a vaccination center in Gwangjin District, Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap
By Lee Hyo-jin
Criticism is rising over inconsistencies in the government’s COVID-19 vaccine delivery system based on different types of medical facilities, under which some smaller clinics are required to transport the vaccines on their own, raising concerns that this may spoil the temperature-sensitive vaccines.
Under the current system, health authorities take responsibility for deliveries of 10 or more vials, whereas for smaller shipments, the medical facilities themselves clinic staffers must transport the vaccines using their own containers.
But many smaller medical facilities are not equipped to transport the vaccines that must be stored at low temperatures. This has prompted concerns that the vaccines may be spoiled especially quickly during the summer.
A public petition was uploaded on the Cheong Wa Dae website, July 30, by a writer claiming to be a pediatrician who criticized the health authorities for shifting the responsibility for vaccine transport onto medical facilities.
“Previously, the first batches were delivered to our clinic by a cold chain logistics company escorted by military personnel. But this week, I was told to visit a public health center and fetch them using cooler boxes,” the petition read.
“It’s difficult to keep the vaccines at the required temperature ― 4 to 8 degrees Celsius ― during this heat wave using cooler boxes. Other medical facilities in the same building had their vaccines delivered as they were receiving more than 10 vials,” the petitioner said, calling on the government to deliver the vaccines to each hospital regardless of the amount.
The Korea Medical Association, the largest doctors’ group in the country, also expressed concerns.
“Such a delivery system is inappropriate in the current situation when we should minimize the wasted vaccines. The government should not shift its responsibility for safe distribution of the vaccines onto individual medical facilities,” the group said in its statement, released July 30.
The association called on the government to guarantee delivery of vaccines to all medical facilities in order to ensure safety of the nationwide vaccination program.