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 seasonal inoculation program is expanded to head off potential Covid-19 complications.
Coming just weeks after the rollout of the national vaccine program was suspended over safety worries, the deaths have dominated headlines in South Korea.
Authorities said there was no reason to believe the deaths were linked to the vaccine but an investigation, including post mortems, was under way.
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.
“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.
Officials last month announced plans to procure 20% more flu vaccines for the winter than the previous year to inoculate 30 million people in a bid to prevent the health system being overloaded by patients with flu and COVID-19 exposure.
South Korea’s flu vaccines are supplied by different drug makers, including LG Chem Ltd and Boryung Biopharma Co. Ltd., a unit of Boryung Pharm Co. Ltd. .
However, the start of a free jab program for around 19 million eligible people 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.
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