World

Nine deaths in S. Korea after flu shots fan fears

SEOUL Nine people have died after getting flu shots in South Korea in the past week, raising concerns over the vaccine's safety just as the seasonal inoculation programme is expanded to head off potential Covid-19 complications.

Five new deaths were reported yesterday alone, but the authorities had no plans to suspend the vaccination programme, unless investigations, including post-mortems, revealed a link, which preliminary findings had not.

"We have reviewed whether it is appropriate to continue the vaccination or better to suspend and wait for the results," health official Kim Joong Gon told a briefing.

"We came to the conclusion that the deaths had no direct relations with the vaccination, given the limited data we have now and without detailed post-mortem reports."

Mr Kim said a preliminary investigation into six victims revealed five had underlying conditions.

Health officials also said no toxic substances had been found in the same vaccine administered to other people.

Coming just weeks after the roll-out of the national vaccine programme was temporarily suspended over safety worries, the deaths, which include a 17-year-old boy and a man in his 70s, have dominated news headlines in South Korea.

With winter approaching, the country is planning to inoculate 30 million people in a bid to prevent the health system being overloaded by patients with flu and Covid-19 exposure.

However, the start of a free jab programme for around 19 million eligible people was suspended for three weeks after it was discovered that some five million doses, which need to be refrigerated, had been exposed to room temperature while being transported to a medical facility.

Officials said 8.36 million people have been given the free flu vaccine since inoculations resumed on Oct 13. - REUTERS

WORLD