South Korean authorities stick to flu vaccine plan after deaths rise to 48

Heekyong Yang
·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: A man gets an influenza vaccine at a branch of the Korea Association of Health Promotion in Seoul
FILE PHOTO: A man gets an influenza vaccine at a branch of the Korea Association of Health Promotion in Seoul

By Heekyong Yang

SEOUL (Reuters) - The number of South Koreans who have died after getting flu shots has risen to 48, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Saturday, adding that the vaccines would continue to reduce the chance of having simultaneous epidemics.

The health authorities said they found no direct link between the deaths and the shots. They plan to carry on with the state-run vaccination programme to try to avoid having to fight both the flu and the coronavirus over the coming winter.

"After reviewing death cases so far, it is not the time to suspend a flu vaccination programme since vaccination is very crucial this year, considering ... the COVID-19 outbreaks," KDCA Director Jeong Eun-kyung told a briefing.

Jeong said the review had shown no direct link between the flu shots and the 26 deaths that have been investigated.

Some 20 initial autopsy results from the police and the National Forensic Service showed that 13 people died of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and other disorders not caused by the vaccination.

The death toll among those who have been vaccinated rose by 12 cases from a day earlier to 48 on Saturday.

The rising deaths have caused some doctors and politicians to call for a halt to the government campaign to vaccinate about 30 million of the country's 54 million people.

While encouraging people to get flu vaccines, Jeong issued precautions to take before getting the shot, such as drinking enough water and telling healthcare workers about any underlying medical conditions. She also advised people to wait 15-30 minutes before leaving the clinic where they receive their vaccine.

"If possible, try to get the flu shot when it's warm, since there are concerns that low temperatures could affect cardiovascular disease or cerebrovascular disease," she said.

The KDCA said 9.4 million people had been inoculated as of Friday in the programme that began in September, with 1,154 cases of adverse reactions.

South Korea reported 77 new coronavirus cases as of Friday midnight, bringing total infections to 25,775, with 457 deaths.

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Tom Hogue)