Seoul, Oct 22 (IANS) South Korea’s health authorities reaffirmed on Thursday that the state-initiated seasonal flu shot programme will continue despite more suspected deaths, citing no direct link between flu shots and deaths.
“There were more reported cases of death; yet, it is the experts’ opinion that there is no direct link between the deaths and the vaccination,” Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), said during a parliamentary hearing.
As of 4 p.m. (local time) on Thursday, the number of people who died after being vaccinated in recent days was 25, compared with 12 recorded at the start of the day, according to the KDCA.
Of the 25 deaths, 22, or 88 per cent, are people aged 60 or older. If data from provincial governments is added, the total number of deaths would reach 28, Yonhap news agency reported.
The country has been pushing for a state free flu shot scheme to inoculate some 19 million people, including teenagers and senior citizens, to curb the possible “twindemic.”
The KDCA chief said a thorough investigation is under way to find the exact cause of their deaths, as well as epidemiological investigations, including autopsies, into nine cases.
Of them, two deaths may be related to anaphylaxis shock, a serious allergic reaction that follows immunization, according to the KDCA.
The free vaccination programme — which was expanded this year in an effort to prevent the potential twindemic during the winter — is joined by five major drugmakers that include GC Pharma and Ilyang Pharmaceutical Co.
Jeong said the vaccines given to the deceased were manufactured by the five firms and all have different serial numbers, refuting allegations of possible side effects, such as toxicity.
Earlier in the day, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo also sought to soothe growing public anxiety over flu shots stressing that the free programme will continue as planned.