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article imageSouth Korea to continue flu vaccination plan despite 25 deaths

By Karen Graham     Oct 22, 2020 in Health
Seoul - South Korean officials refused on Thursday to suspend a seasonal influenza inoculation effort, despite growing calls for a halt, after the deaths of at least 25 of those vaccinated.
Health authorities say they have found no direct link between the deaths and the vaccines being used, reports Reuters. At least 22 of the dead, including a 17-year-old boy, were part of a campaign to inoculate 19 million teenagers and senior citizens for free, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
Close to 13 million South Koreans have received flu shots as part of a program to vaccinate up to 30 million of the country's 51 million people against the flu virus this year.
According to the BBC, besides the 17-year-old, most of those who died after receiving the flu vaccination were in their 70s and 80s with underlying conditions.
"I understand and regret that people are concerned about the vaccine," Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said but confirmed the free program 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."
South Korea ordered a fifth more flu vaccines this year in order to avoid what health officials are calling a "twindemic" of people getting the flu along with coronavirus patients already creating a shortage of hospital beds - overwhelming the healthcare system.
Numerous manufacturers were contracted to produce the flu vaccines, including domestic firms GC Pharma, SK Bioscience, Korea Vaccine, and Boryung Biopharma Co. Ltd., a unit of Boryung Pharm Co. Ltd. France’s Sanofi was also asked to provide a vaccine.
The second time trust in the vaccine has eroded
The free program has been shrouded in controversy since it began last month. The program was halted for three weeks after health authorities found out that about 5 million doses were kept at room temperature rather than being refrigerated, as was required.
Since the resumption of the program on October 13, 8.3 million people have been vaccinated and about 350 cases of adverse reactions has been reported. Those who have died received vaccines from a number of companies.
More about South Korea, mass flu vaccinations, twindemic, free flu shots, 25 deaths
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