Five South Koreans die after getting flu shots, sparking vaccine fears

Henrietta Brewer
October 22, 2020

According to health authorities, the deceased people got flu vaccines manufactured by Korea Vaccine, Boryung Biopharma, LG Chem, SK bioscience and GC Pharma. Health minister Kim Gang Lip of South Korea has said that the dead include a 17-year-old youth and a 70-year-old aged man.

However, the officers also say that the deaths have been caused by the vaccine, there is not enough logic to believe that, but the investigation of the cases is still going on.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KCDA) said on Wednesday that from 2009 and until this year's state vaccination program began last month, 25 people died after receiving influenza vaccines, including two last year, and all but one were not acknowledged as caused by the flu shot.

Health authorities said on Wednesday they had no plans to suspend a programme to inoculate around 19 million people for free after a preliminary investigation into six deaths found no direct connection to the vaccines. Il-Yang Pharmaceutical, Sanofi and GSK could not immediately be reached for comment.

Officials said 8.3 million people have been inoculated with the free flu vaccine since it resumed on October 13, with around 350 cases of adverse reactions reported.

The country launched a free flu vaccination programme for 19 million eligible people last month.

The health official added that out of the six victims, five had underlying health conditions.

"Any vaccine that is suspicious should be recalled to prevent bigger troubles", said Kim Woo-joo, a professor of infectious medicine at Korea University Guro Hospital in Seoul. This unexpected incident has raised concerns over the vaccine's safety just as the seasonal vaccination program is expanded due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The programme was suspended for three weeks after it was discovered that some five million doses, which need to be refrigerated, had been exposed to room temperature while being transported to a medical facility. Under the paid programme, the purchaser can select the vaccine provider from a larger pool that includes the free vaccine manufacturers plus others.

The most deaths in South Korea linked to seasonal flu vaccinations was six in 2005, the Yonhap news agency said.

Kim Myung-suk, 65, is among a growing number of South Koreans who made a decision to pay for a vaccine of their choice, despite being eligible for a free dose.

As many experts have explained the importance of taking the flu shots this pandemic year, South Korean officials last month announced that they have chose to produce 20 percent more flu vaccines in 2020 than the previous year. "So I'm getting a shot somewhere else and will pay for it".

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