S.Korea presses on with flu vaccination program amid concerns about deaths

Modesto Morganelli
Ottobre 23, 2020

The number of people who died in South Korea after being vaccinated against seasonal flu has risen to 17, the Yonhap news agency reported on Thursday.

"Since most people who got flu shots with the same vaccines reported no major problems, we concluded that those vaccines do not contain toxic materials", added Kim Joong-gon, who leads the KDCA now investigating the deaths.

The deaths, which include a 17-year-old boy and a man in his 70s, come just a week after the free flu shot programme for teenagers and senior citizens was restarted.

"So far, experts said there was low possibility that the shots and deaths were related but many citizens remain anxious", he said.

Flu vaccines are available for over-65s, children up to the age of 11, pregnant women, and those with certain pre-existing conditions such as asthma.

He said that the probe so far had concluded the deaths were not a result of the flu jab.

"We're looking into the causes but will again thoroughly examine the entire process in which various government agencies are involved, from production to distribution".

According to health authorities, the deceased people got flu vaccines manufactured or distributed by Korea Vaccine, Boryung Biopharma, LG Chem or Shinsung Pharm. Ltd., along with France's Sanofi.

"We have reviewed whether it is appropriate to continue the vaccination or better to suspend and wait for the results", health official Kim Joong-gon told a briefing.

GC Pharma, LG Chem, SK Bioscience and Boryung declined to comment.

The Department of Health has reached a deal with drugs giant Sanofi to purchase a substantial quantity of its vaccine Flublok -despite the fact it is not licensed for use anywhere in Europe. KDCA Commissioner Jeong also ruled out the theory that some victims may have been allergic to chicken eggs used to produce some of the vaccine types, noting deaths also occurred among those who had taken vaccines made with mammalian cells.

Kim Chong-in, leader of the main opposition People Power party, wanted the program halted until the causes of the deaths were verified.

"I understand and regret that people are concerned about the vaccine", Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said, but confirmed the free programme would go ahead.

The program was previously halted for three weeks after it was revealed that five million doses had been transported at room temperature, rather than being refrigerated as required.

Officials said 8.3 million people had been inoculated since the program resumed on October 13, with about 350 cases of adverse reactions reported. They supply both the free programme and paid services.

'As we approach the winter and cases of Covid-19 continue to rise, it is crucial we double down on efforts to vaccinate as many people as possible from flu. Officials have said comparisons to previous years are tough, since more people are taking the vaccine this year. He died in Daegu on Wednesday, a day after receiving the flu vaccine.

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