Nine people have died after getting flu shots in South Korea in the past week, raising concerns over the vaccine’s safety just as the seasonal inoculation programme is expanded to head off potential COVID-19 complications.
Five new deaths were reported on Wednesday (Oct 21) alone, but authorities had no plans to suspend the vaccination programme, unless investigations, including post mortems, revealed a link, which preliminary findings had not.
“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.
“We came to the conclusion that the deaths had no direct relations with the vaccination given the limited data we have now and without detailed post mortem reports.”
Kim said a preliminary investigation into six victims revealed five had underlying conditions.
“It makes it hard for us to put out a categorical statement,” Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told a briefing on Wednesday 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.
South Korean health authorities said on Wednesday they would press on with a flu vaccine programme as there was no reason to believe the scheme was linked to a number of reported deaths.
Jeong Eun-kyeong, the director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), told a briefing there would be an investigation into the deaths of the people who had received the shots, but the agency had found no reason to suspend the programme.