Five people die after getting flu shots in South Korea

Five people die after getting flu shots in South Korea, sparking vaccine fears

  • Deaths come amid inoculation drive to stop flu and Covid overloading hospitals
  • They included a 17-year-old boy and a man in his 70s with Parkinson’s disease 
  • Authorities said there was no reason to believe the vaccines caused the deaths 

Five people have died after getting flu shots in South Korea in the past week, authorities said, raising concerns over the vaccine’s safety just as the winter jab programme is expanded because of Covid-19.

Authorities said there was no reason to believe the deaths were linked to the vaccine but an investigation including post-mortems is underway.  

‘It makes it hard for us to put out a categorical statement,’ vice health minister Kim Gang-lip told a briefing today about the deaths, which include a 17-year-old boy and a man in his 70s.

Coming just weeks after the rollout of the national vaccine programme was suspended over safety worries, the deaths have dominated headlines in South Korea. 

A nurse holds up a flu vaccine at a clinic in Seoul, South Korea, where authorities say five people have died after getting the shot in the last week 

A 17-year-old boy who died on Friday was the first death noted by officials to follow receipt of the vaccine. 

The boy died two days after receiving the flu shot in Incheon, near the capital Seoul.

A man in his 70s, who had Parkinson’s disease and arrhythmia, was the most recent case. He died in Daegu on Wednesday, a day after receiving the flu vaccine. 

Daegu officials said the man had received vaccines since 2015 with no prior adverse reactions.

Officials last month announced plans to procure 20 per cent more flu vaccines for the winter than the previous year. 

They hope to inoculate 30million people in a bid to prevent the health system being overloaded by patients with flu and Covid-19 exposure.

However, the start of a free jab programme was suspended for three weeks after it was discovered that some 5 million doses, which need to be refrigerated, had been exposed to room temperature while being transported to a medical facility.

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

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in looks into a microscope during a visit to a vaccine development company in Seongnam last week 

The highest number of deaths linked to the seasonal flu vaccination was six in 2005, according to Yonhap news agency.

Boosting public trust in vaccines has become a major global challenge this year, as some countries rush to approve experimental Covid-19 vaccines before full safety and efficacy studies have been completed.

The World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 global health threats for last year.

In South Korea, a poll earlier this month found that 62 per cent of people in Gyeonggi province, near Seoul, would not get vaccinated against Covid-19, even if a vaccine is approved, until all safety questions are fully answered.

South Korea’s flu vaccines are supplied by different drugmakers, including LG Chem Ltd and Boryung Biopharma Co. Ltd, a unit of Boryung Pharm Co Ltd. 

A Boryung official said the company was aware of the reported deaths, but had no immediate comment. LG Chem said the company would follow government advice.    

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