|Professor Lim Ju-won|
A report by researchers at Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH) has stressed that the government should expand its vaccine programs to benefit pregnant women and patients with chronic illnesses more.
The research, led by Professor Lim Ju-won, compared the data of 61,036 people who participated in the 2005-2014 National Health and Nutrition Survey. The team divided the participants by social and demographic factors and examined the difference of influenza vaccination rate by each category.
The team categorized the participants into four specific classification factors – sex, residence area, educational and income levels – and also applied a grouping classification -- general and vulnerable. The vulnerable group included people aged 65 and above, children under 5, pregnant women and patients with chronic illnesses.
As a result, the vaccination rate of influenza among the subjects showed a gradual increase, from 38.0 to 44.1percent.
The data showed that women (42.7 percent) had a higher vaccination rate compared to men (38 percent), rural areas (49.3 percent) over urban areas (38.2 percent) and highest income earners (42 percent) over lowest income bracket (39.2 percent).
With regards to the grouping classification, the team found that 29.1 percent of the general group and 63.1 percent of the vulnerable group had received vaccinations. In detail, the vaccination rate for those over 65 was 77.8 percent, children under 5, 73.1 percent, patients with chronic illnesses, 37.5 percent and pregnant women, 25.8 percent.
"This result seems to reflect the reality that the national immunization program does not support patients with chronic illnesses and pregnant women," a researcher said.
Vaccines are the most effective means of influenza prevention, especially for those who can cause complications. Since 1997, Korea’s national immunization program has included support for influenza vaccination for the elderly with low incomes. The program expanded to all elderly citizens aged 65 or older in 2005. Due to financial limitations, however, there remains a need for support.
“In the future, effective national vaccine policies need to focus more on pregnant women and patients with chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes,” Professor Lim said. “Also, considering the number of subjects, the pregnant women only account for 3 to 4 percent of the population aged 65 and over. However, the population of patients with chronic illnesses is close to 60 percent of the elderly population.”
Although there seems to be no significant financial burden in expanding the scope of vaccination application to pregnant women, the government needs to acquire additional budgets to cover patients with chronic illness, Lim noted.
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