Flu vaccinations in South Korea will continue as planned, with most of the recent deaths after the vaccination not linked to the flu shots, health officials said on Monday.
Of the 59 people who died this year after flu shots (up from 48 on Saturday), 46 were believed to be unrelated to flu shots. An investigation of the 13 remaining deaths has been initiated, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said in a statement.
The KDCA took note of this: “There is no causal link between the death and the vaccine, therefore we have decided not to consider discontinuing the vaccination”.
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said, “We will respect the scientific judgment of experts and start vaccination of seniors aged 62 to 69 years as planned,” said South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Sunday at a meeting at the South Korean Disaster and Security Headquarters.
On Monday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged: “Please trust that the health authorities will review the conclusions and presentations with experts. At a meeting in Cheongwadae, the executive office and official residence of the President, it was confirmed that there is no direct causal link between death and vaccination as a result of investigations and comprehensive judgments such as autopsies on previously reported cases”.
Last week, the Korean Medical Association recommended “withholding vaccination for one week,” but made it clear that it was not proposing to stop vaccination and called for further investigation before any decisions are made, the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo said.
The KDCA noted that none of the 59 recent deaths were caused by anaphylactic shock, a severe allergic reaction that could occur after vaccination.
“They must die within a few hours immediately after vaccination to see an anaphylactic shock. Most [recent]deaths lasted more than a day, and if you died within a short time, there were other underlying diseases,” reported a KDCA official, Chosun Ilbo.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare disease that causes muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis, is another disease that could occur after receiving the flu vaccine. “There has been a case of muscular asthenia for several weeks or months, and no such case has occurred among the deaths following the vaccination this year,” a KDCA official noted.
On Sunday, a total of 1,231 people in South Korea reported adverse reactions after this year’s flu vaccination, according to health authorities who will continue to investigate the cause of recent deaths after the vaccination.
More than 9.4 million people in South Korea have received flu shots since this year’s vaccination program began in September, Reuters reported.
The KDCA found that the recent number of deaths after flu vaccination is no higher than in previous years. Last year, 1,531 people aged 65 years and older died within seven days of flu vaccination, according to KDCA. “This is the number of people who died after the vaccination regardless of the causality of the vaccination,” said KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong.
South Korea’s Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo said: “The vaccination offers far greater benefits compared to side effects, and both WHO [World Health Organization] and experts from home and abroad agree on this,” he said at a briefing on Sunday.
President Moon noted on Monday: “This year, it is necessary to expand flu vaccinations, not only to prevent the flu, but also to prevent the simultaneous infection and spread of flu and coronavirus. We hope that by missing the right dose due to excessive anxiety, the mortality rate will not increase the risk of contracting a severe flu,” said President Moon.
The latest deaths following flu shots coincide with the ongoing COVID 19 outbreak, which killed 457 people and infected 25,836 in South Korea, according to the latest WHO report on Sunday.
Earlier this year, Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, revealed in a letter to President Moon that 200 million vaccine kits could be produced annually starting next June if South Korea’s SK Bioscience develops a successful COVID-19 vaccine.
Gates said he was “impressed by South Korea’s response” to the