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

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.

FILE PHOTO: A man gets an influenza vaccine at a branch of the Korea Association of Health Promotion in Seoul, South Korea, October 23, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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

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South Korean Authorities Stick to Flu Vaccine Plan After Deaths Rise to 48 | World News

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)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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South Korean officials find no direct link between flu vaccine and recent deaths

The country’s government has rolled out a flu vaccine campaign, concerned about the potential simultaneous spread of coronavirus and influenza.

At least 36 people have died after taking flu vaccinations since last Friday, including a 17-year-old. The average age of those who died was 74, according to the South Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

As of Friday, more than 14 million people had gotten the flu vaccine, of which 9.4 million were children, elderly, and pregnant women, according to the KDCA.

Ki Moran, a professor at South Korea’s National Cancer Centre, said the flu vaccine is known to cause serious side effects in one out of 10 million people.

In 2019, 227,000 people over the age of 65 died in South Korea, she added. That’s an average of 621 deaths a day, to put the recent figures into perspective.

The KDCA decided on Friday not to suspend the flu vaccinations. The vaccination expert committee will hold a meeting Saturday morning to review additional data, according to a KDCA statement.

Rare side effects

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The KDCA’s Friday meeting came after rising scrutiny from experts and politicians.

On Friday, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called for a thorough investigation into the deaths, citing public anxiety, according to a press release by the Health Ministry. He did not call for a halt to the vaccination campaign.

The Korean Medical Association, a coalition of 130,000 doctors, has urged the government to suspend the vaccination program for a week until they determined the cause of the deaths.

In a statement, the Korean Vaccine Society emphasized the importance of the flu vaccine, especially “for children, the elderly, and patients with chronic diseases and low immune system.” The organization cited concerns about the possible spread of flu during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Experts globally are preparing for flu season in the middle of the pandemic. “This is a critical year for us to try to take flu as much off the table as we can,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an interview with the AMA’s JAMA Network.

One reason is to decrease the strain on public health services and hospitals, which are bracing for a winter wave. Experts say it possible to get Covid-19 and the flu simultaneously — and, because flu symptoms look so similar to that of Covid-19, it will be impossible to rule out a coronavirus diagnosis without a test. That means a case of the flu can cause substantial disruption to work and school.

In South Korea, Covid-19 has infected 25,775 people and killed 457, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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South Korean deaths spark flu vaccine safety fears

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean officials refused to suspend the country’s seasonal flu inoculation programme on Thursday, despite growing calls to do so following the deaths of at least 13 people who were vaccinated in recent days.

FILE PHOTO: A man gets an influenza vaccine at a hospital in Seoul, South Korea, October 21, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Health authorities said they have found no direct links between the deaths, which include a 17-year-old boy, and the vaccines being given under a programme to inoculate some 19 million teenagers and senior citizens for free.

“The number of deaths has increased, but our team sees low possibility that the deaths resulted from the shots,” Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), told parliament.

South Korea ordered 20% more flu vaccines this year to ward off what it calls a “twindemic” of people with flu developing potential COVID-19 complications, and overburdening hospitals over the winter.

“I understand and regret that people are concerned about the vaccine,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said on Thursday, while confirming the free programme would go ahead.

“We’re looking into the causes but will again thoroughly examine the entire process in which various government agencies are involved, from production to distribution,” he added.

The country’s free vaccine programme uses doses manufactured by local drug makers GC Pharma, SK Bioscience and Ilyang Pharmaceutical Co 007570.KS, along with France’s Sanofi SASY.PA and Britain’s Glaxosmithkline GSK.L. The vaccines are distributed by local companies LG Chem Ltd 051910.KS and Boryung Biopharma Co. Ltd., a unit of Boryung Pharm Co. Ltd. 003850.KS.

GC Pharma, LG Chem, SK Bioscience and Boryung declined to comment. Ilyang Pharmaceutical, Sanofi and GSK did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

It was not immediately clear if any of the South Korean-manufactured vaccines were exported, or whether those supplied by Sanofi and GSK were also being used in other countries.

Kim Chong-in, leader of the main opposition People Power party, said the programme should be halted until the exact causes of the deaths had been verified.

Health authorities said on Wednesday that a preliminary investigation into six deaths found no direct connection to the vaccines. No toxic substances were found in the vaccines, and at least five of the six people investigated had underlying conditions, officials said.

EARLIER SUSPENSION

The free programme has proved controversial from its launch last month. Its start 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 8.3 million people had been inoculated since the programme resumed on Oct. 13, with around 350 cases of adverse reactions reported.

The government is also offering a paid vaccine programme which, combined with the free programme, aims to inoculate about 30 million of the country’s 52-million population. Under the paid programme, the purchaser can select the vaccine provider from a larger pool that includes the

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