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Korea Investigating Into 13 Deaths After Vaccine

Report: Ryan I Editor: Isnan Rahardi

TIMUR MEDIA – Public health authorities in South Korea are investigating possible links between the death of a teenager and a flu vaccine that experienced heat fluctuations.

The doctor leading an inquiry into the deaths has said trust in the vaccine programme has been dented, and the Korean Medical Association has called for it to be halted until its safety is assured.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said in press briefing that a 17-year-old boy without preexisting medical conditions died at his Incheon home on Oct. 16, two days after getting a flu shot. The vaccine he received was a product distributed by Shinsung pharmaceutical company, which was earlier accused of handling errors. The 13 death’s association with the vaccine is unclear, with an autopsy still underway, the agency said.

More than 1 million doses of flu vaccine have been withdrawn in the past month due either to mishandling or contamination, or both. The government authorized the use of the remaining 4.9 million doses that underwent varying ranges of heat exposure and another 4 million packaged in syringes deemed to cause formation of suspicious residue, after testing of samples showed they were still safe and effective.

The series of mishaps surrounding flu vaccinations this year is unprecedented in the country’s long influenza immunization history, according to health experts.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Kim Woo-joo of Korea University Medical Center in Guro, southern Seoul, pointed out there are “no guidelines from credible institutions” for testing vaccines that have experienced a cold chain breach for use on people.

“In principle, vaccines affected by a cold chain breach are discarded,” he said. “Risks are being taken in proceeding with their administration.”

Professor Kim Jun-kon, who is leading the damage investigation team, has tried to reassure South Koreans about the safety of the vaccination programme.

He said post-mortem examinations are under way and will also test for Covid-19.

This is the second time trust has been shaken in South Korea’s vaccination programme.

It was earlier suspended for three weeks after it was discovered that around five million doses, which need to be refrigerated, had been exposed to room temperature while being transported to a medical facility.

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