South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called for a probe into the deaths of at least 30 people who died shortly after receiving seasonal flu shots, stepping up scrutiny after Seoul previously denied any link to the vaccine. Authorities say they are conducting a full investigation and they do not believe the vaccines were the cause of the deaths, reports the BBC.
Most of the nine deaths were of individuals aged 65 or over or with underlying health conditions.
"We have not found a direct connection between deaths and vaccines, or a relation between adverse effects of flu shots and deaths", he explained.
Concerns over the vaccination program have grown following the recent deaths of at least 32 people who had previously been immunized.
The agency said it will continue with the free vaccine program as planned. Officials have said it is hard to make comparisons to previous years because of the greater numbers of people taking the vaccine this year.
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South Korea is now implementing its national flu vaccination program, from which 8.36 million people have received shots.
"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. Officials have said it is hard to make comparisons to previous years because of the greater numbers of people taking the vaccine this year. Last month, the program was suspended for three weeks after it was discovered that around five million doses of the vaccine, which must be kept refrigerated, had been left at room temperature while being transported to a hospital. In this webinar, learn the benefits of utilizing demand-led supply and direct-to-patient distribution models in the clinical supply chain, as well as how they can be used to both improve flexibility and better align with patient needs.
The country has been pushing for a free state flu shot scheme to inoculate around 19 million people, including teenagers and senior citizens.
Kim Myung-suk, 65, is among a growing number of South Koreans who chose to pay for a vaccine of their choice, despite being eligible for a free dose. Sanofi referred to the KDCA findings but said in a statement to Reuters that scientific assessments and monitoring were under way and that it would closely work with local health authorities.
Officials said 8.3 million people had been inoculated since the programme resumed on October 13, with around 350 cases of adverse reactions reported.