Some patients experienced side effects after flu shots: MOH
Ministry advises suspending use of two flu vaccines following deaths in S. Korea
Several people here have experienced mild discomfort after receiving the flu vaccines linked to post-vaccination deaths in South Korea, said the Health Ministry (MOH) on Wednesday.
Its spokesman told The New Paper that the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) received two reports this year of patients experiencing symptoms of throat discomfort, nausea, or rash after being vaccinated with one of the affected vaccines, SkyCellflu Quadrivalent.
MOH added that HSA has received a few reports since last year of people experiencing reactions around the injection site and rash after receiving VaxigripTetra, the second affected vaccine. The spokesman said all affected patients have recovered.
MOH told healthcare providers and medical practitioners to temporarily stop using the two vaccines as a precautionary measure after nearly 60 people died in South Korea following influenza vaccinations.
The South Korean authorities have said investigations and autopsies into some of the cases have so far found little to no evidence that the deaths were linked to the vaccine injections.
The spokesman said healthcare providers and medical practitioners may continue to use the other two vaccines brought into Singapore for the flu season, and said MOH is monitoring the situation. She added: "We do not track the use of influenza vaccination by brands."
Health experts said those who have taken the affected vaccines should not be overly alarmed.
Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang of the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health said: "It is important to note that more than nine million South Koreans have been vaccinated since this current flu vaccination campaign began in September this year. And, statistically, there will be deaths and adverse events in any such large groups of people over a month, even if no vaccine was administered."
The experts added that it was extremely rare for flu vaccines to lead to serious complications or death.
Prof Hsu said other than anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, the most devastating complication is a neurological disorder triggered by the immune system that may result in paralysis.
"However, these are extremely rare, occurring at the scale of just over a case for every million doses of vaccine. The risk of complications - including death - from influenza is far, far higher," he said.
Infectious disease expert Leong Hoe Nam added: "The flu vaccine has been used for more than 50 years, so there is a lot of experience surrounding it. The benefit far outweighs any fears."