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5 South Koreans die after getting flu shots, sparking vaccine fears

32 Comments
By Sangmi Cha

Five people have died after getting flu shots in South Korea in the past week, authorities said, raising concerns over the vaccine's safety just as the seasonal inoculation program is expanded to head off potential COVID-19 complications.

Authorities said there was no reason to believe the deaths were linked to the vaccine but an investigation, including autopsies, was underway.

"It makes it hard for us to put out a categorical statement," Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told a briefing on Wednesday about the deaths, which include a 17-year-old boy and a man in his 70s.

Coming just weeks after the rollout of the national vaccine program was suspended over safety worries, the deaths have dominated headlines in South Korea.

Officials last month announced plans to procure 20% more flu vaccines for the winter than the previous year 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 program for around 19 million eligible people was suspended for three weeks after it was discovered that some 5 million doses, which need to be refrigerated, had been exposed to room temperature while being transported to a medical facility.

Boosting public trust in vaccines has become a major global challenge this year, as some countries rush to approve experimental COVID-19 vaccines before full safety and efficacy studies have been completed.

South Korea's flu vaccines are supplied by different drugmakers, including LG Chem Ltd and Boryung Biopharma Co. Ltd., a unit of Boryung Pharm Co. Ltd.. A Boryung official told Reuters the company was aware of the reported deaths, but had no immediate comment. LG Chem said the company would follow government advice.

A 17-year-old boy who died on Friday was the first death noted by officials to follow receipt of the vaccine. The boy died two days after receiving the flu shot in Incheon, near the capital Seoul.

A man in his 70s, who had Parkinson's disease and arrhythmia, was the most recent case. He died in Daegu on Wednesday, a day after receiving the flu vaccine. Daegu officials said the man had received vaccines since 2015 with no prior adverse reactions.

Officials said 8.3 million people have been inoculated with the free flu vaccine since it resumed on Oct 13, with around 350 cases of adverse reactions reported. The highest number of deaths linked to the seasonal flu vaccination was six in 2005, according to Yonhap news agency.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, trust in vaccines was a growing challenge for public health bodies. The World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 global health threats for last year.

In South Korea, a poll earlier this month found that 62% of 2,548 respondents in Gyeonggi province, near Seoul, would not get vaccinated against COVID-19, even if a vaccine is approved, until all safety questions are fully answered.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

32 Comments
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In any case, why is a 17-year-old boy receiving 'flu shots?

-14 ( +14 / -28 )

Where there is risk there must be choice. No mandated vaccines.

-5 ( +12 / -17 )

A 17-year-old boy who died on Friday was the first death noted by officials to follow receipt of the vaccine. The boy died two days after receiving the flu shot in Incheon, near the capital Seoul.

This is terrible. His whole life before and he may have died trying to avoid a minor illness. This needs to be thoroughly investigated and heads should roll.

7 ( +16 / -9 )

I don't know if Flu Vaccine and Influenza Vaccine are same.

Me and my family are taking influenza vaccines for many years, and every season we have never got an influenza.

Just me 1 time but very very mild.

So I feel very very safe with my influenza vaccine.

And it is paid by my company.

7 ( +18 / -11 )

Flu shots are available in our area until the end of the month. The last time I had one was compulsory when I was 16. Declined the new offer.

5 ( +14 / -9 )

Declined the new offer.

Understandable; the 'flu jab is no joke and is almost as bad as the full-blown variety - minus the fever.

-13 ( +5 / -18 )

Poor them.  Shows that our current panic over Covid is excessive if we look at so many other possible causes of death.

-10 ( +9 / -19 )

In any case, why is a 17-year-old boy receiving 'flu shots?

Because its safer than not getting them, every year people die from influenza, even perfectly healthy young people. There is nothing wrong with trying to prevent a very dangerous disease with a vaccine.

Where there is risk there must be choice. No mandated vaccines.

Sound advice if you live in North Korea, irrelevant for the rest of the world, people are free to choose the much higher risk of not vaccinating for whatever reasons, valid like an immunodeficiency or invalid like imaginary problems, makes no difference.

This is terrible. His whole life before and he may have died trying to avoid a minor illness. This needs to be thoroughly investigated and heads should roll.

Influenza is not a minor illness, it maims and kills around half a million people a year. Unless you have some information not on the article it makes no sense to demand and investigation and punishment for something that can be unrelated, it would not be the first nor the last time something is attributed to a vaccine or a drug just because it was close to the problem. First let the investigation finds the cause, and if it is the vaccine then yes responsible people should be punished. The opposite is also true, if the causes of the deaths are unrelated but vaccination is refused because of the publicity and people die unnecessarily from a preventable disease (specially important this year with the COVID-19) then people responsible for the propaganda should also take responsibility for them.

the 'flu jab is no joke and is almost as bad as the full-blown variety - minus the fever.

In general that is not true, most people don't have any important side effects (above pain and swelling on the vaccination site) and definitely nothing even close to a full blown influenza case.

18 ( +27 / -9 )

In general that is not true, most people don't have any important side effects (above pain and swelling on the vaccination site) and definitely nothing even close to a full blown influenza case.

Well, I must be one of the unlucky ones because the jab knocks me out for a week.

0 ( +8 / -8 )

Monty wrote Today 03:47 pm JST

I don't know if Flu Vaccine and Influenza Vaccine are same.

Me and my family are taking influenza vaccines for many years, and every season we have never got an influenza.

Just me 1 time but very very mild.

So I feel very very safe with my influenza vaccine.

And it is paid by my company.

Well, good for you and your family, buddy.

Me, I haven't taken a vaccine for years, without any major problems at all. Every case is different, but maybe more than a vaccine, eating well, sleeping well and having good hygiene plays a huge part.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

I started having annual flu shots the year after I came down with influenza (not just a heavy cold) and was laid up with it for a week, during which time it demonstrated to me just how bad the flu can be. In 25 years of having annual vaccinations the only adverse reactions among people in my household have been minor (a bit of swelling and redness around the site, a bit feverish) and lasted for no longer than a few hours. That goes for everyone I know.

There must be literally hundreds of millions of flu shots given annually to people the world over. Five deaths is tragic (although the autopsies still have to be held), but a total of 350 (unspecified) adverse reactions in a population of 8.3 million inoculated in one country is minuscule. It certainly won't put me off continuing to be inoculated in the future.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

I'm not at all anti-vaxxer, yet also fully aware that a vaccine program inevitably holds a certain degree of risk (sometimes deadly one). It also often fails to meet the target virus type like seasonal flus. It should be assessed and practised based on costs and benefits for the overall public health.

As for the Korean case, I'm not yet sure if the numbers are isolated, deviant from general patterns. Suspension and inquiries are underway, so further info will be revealed.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

virusrex: "Because its safer than not getting them, every year people die from influenza, even perfectly healthy young people. There is nothing wrong with trying to prevent a very dangerous disease with a vaccine."

Wrong in part. It's only safer than not getting them if you continue to take care after getting the shot, and not treating it like a panacea that cures all. Almost every single person I know who catches the flu, some every year (this being the exception, which I'll get to), get flu shots. I've pointed this out to some and they try to hmmm and haw it away, saying, "Well, the symptoms were dulled by the shot, so it was still worth it," etc. The problem is, once they get the shot, they think they are, as you say, "safer than not getting it". They are not, because many if not all become complacent and sloppy, then catch it. If you need proof of this just look at the number of influenza sufferers in early 2020 compared with previous years -- it was a significant level lower. It's not because of a "warmer winter" as some tried to say, it's because people were more careful than ever to avoid corona. It's the same with masks... the people who get sick are always people who wear the masks -- until now -- and that's because despite the masks they are still sanitizing more carefully, avoiding unnecessary contact in many cases, and more.

You don't need a flu shot if you are young, healthy, and careful. If you're not going to be careful, the flu shot doesn't matter anyway, and clearly, in the case of these poor souls, it was FAR more dangerous getting it than not. I'm not anti-vax by any means, but I think there are times when you should ask yourself if you really need it or not, like with the flu vaccines.

-5 ( +12 / -17 )

virusrex: Meant to add, one other thing that is wrong with everyone under the sun getting a vaccine they don't necessarily need is that it boost the viruses strength and ability to render said vaccines less effective or just plain ineffective.

-10 ( +7 / -17 )

Every case is different, but maybe more than a vaccine, eating well, sleeping well and having good hygiene plays a huge part.

Indeed, if one is truly healthy, the body should be able to handle the flu.

I too haven't been vaccinated in over a decade, and haven't had any problems. Perhaps a few minor sniffles every few years.

-2 ( +10 / -12 )

Never had one, Never will, Home remedy with Vit. C and lots of fluids is all what's needed.

3 ( +13 / -10 )

Quit a art time job a couple of years ago because the flu jab was mandatory. Later found out some staff caught the flu.

-8 ( +7 / -15 )

The 17 year old may have had underlying health problems that meant the flu vaccine was recommended. I have one every year.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

You don't need a flu shot if you are young, healthy, and careful.

Even if this was true . Which is not. Young and healthy and careful? Do these people exist ? Asexual nerds ?

If you're not going to be careful, the flu shot doesn't matter anyway

????

...it boost the viruses strength and ability to render said vaccines less effective or just plain ineffective.

Are not mixing antibiotics and bacteria here ? What do you mean strengthen the virus and render the vaccine ineffective ?

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Wrong in part. It's only safer than not getting them if you continue to take care after getting the shot, and not treating it like a panacea that cures all.

if you take care getting vaccinated is safer than not, if you don't take care being vaccinated is still safer than not. The vaccine is not the cause of any increase of risk, bad hygiene and ignorance may be.

The problem is, once they get the shot, they think they are, as you say, "safer than not getting it". They are not, because many if not all become complacent and sloppy, then catch it.

Yes they are, much safer than without it. If they become complacent and sloppy that is another problem, if not then eating well, sleeping and appropriate amount of times, getting exercise regularly etc would NOT make them safer because those are also not infallible and could make people stop taking care.

. If you need proof of this just look at the number of influenza sufferers in early 2020 compared with previous years -- it was a significant level lower.

But with measures that have had a very heavy cost also included, if being careful was so effective no place would need to do anything on top of that.COVID-19 is more easily spread so exaggerated measures (if influenza were the only danger) that take a heavy toll are in place everywhere, from mask for people without any symptoms to limits on many activities.

Vaccines are simple one part of those measures, they do help reducing risk the same as wearing masks or washing your hands, it make vaccinated people safer than not being vaccinated the same way that washing your hands is safer than not doing it (even if some people would get sloppy by thinking they are safe by washing constantly their hands).

You don't need a flu shot if you are young, healthy, and careful.

Yes you do. Because nothing is absolute in health, if you are young, healthy and careful you still have a chance of getting infected and even getting complications and die. Getting a vaccine (part of being careful) lowers that risk even more.

in the case of these poor souls, it was FAR more dangerous getting it than not.

Do you have some information that nobody else have? because it has not yet proved vaccines had anything to do with the deaths. And you would need a very careful analysis to say that not getting a vaccine would be safer, because 1 out of every million is a quite low risk, especially compared with 100 to 200 deaths per million in the case of infection.

I'm not anti-vax by any means, but I think there are times when you should ask yourself if you really need it or not, like with the flu vaccines

There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you consider properly the risks on both sides, getting influenza is not risk free, even for young healthy careful people.

Meant to add, one other thing that is wrong with everyone under the sun getting a vaccine they don't necessarily need is that it boost the viruses strength and ability to render said vaccines less effective or just plain ineffective.

That is a mistake, everybody getting a vaccine have absolutely no effect on the virus "strength" it does not becomes more dangerous or more easily spread, etc just because of the herd immunity. The most it can do is to escape that immunity, but that would be going back to zero (more likely not even that) to never means going into negative. ]

Indeed, if one is truly healthy, the body should be able to handle the flu.

The problem is that many times it does not. It is not even that rare. The vaccine reduces even further that risk, so it is perfectly logical to include it as part of the care to avoid the infection or complications.

I too haven't been vaccinated in over a decade, and haven't had any problems. Perhaps a few minor sniffles every few years.

I know a couple of people like that, one is very proud of his super strong immunity, but keeps forgetting the week or so of miserable time he gets almost every year with fever and very strong body pain that he qualifies as "sniffles". He was genuinely surprised when his boss send him to his house until he got a note from a doctor to say he had no influenza last year.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Smith, suggest you go back and check your facts on how a vaccine works. In no way will it boost the viruses strength.

Having had influenza 30 years ago and never wishing to be that unwell again I gladly accept the free vaccine I have each year. Yes some times they get the strain wrong (only once I think in recent years) but given the process it is impressive how often they are right. As to it’s effects, most years little more than itching and reddening of the injection sight and sometimes a little aching and a slight general feeling of”bleagh”, but compared to the effects of full blown influenza absolutely nothing.

Freedom to choose as a generality I am all in favour of but when that “choice” endangers the health and life of others there have to be limits. All freedom within human society is relative, there can be no absolute freedom without anarchy, in which case society and civilisation collapses and your “free” life becomes nasty, short and brutish.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

It’s very frustrating how many myopic individuals ignore science and refuse vaccines. Much like wearing a mask and covering your face when you cough or sneeze, vaccinations help with herd immunity.

If you are an anti vaxxer then you are exacerbating the problem. Grow up! https://www.bannerhealth.com/healthcareblog/teach-me/what-is-herd-immunity

8 ( +13 / -5 )

My family has the flu vaccine every year including since my kids are babies. Never had any issue apart from a minor pain on the injection area in the arm when pressing on it. Just got it 2 weeks ago this year.

According to the doctor you may have a bit higher reaction the first time, but I cannot even remember any of that.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

My wife, my son and myself all received our influenza shots this month. No complications. A little soreness that Voltaren tapes can remedy. If they work for us, and also keep us from getting a flu to give to neighbors, family and coworkers, then no one should criticize.

I will not criticize your personal choices if you choose to not get the influenza shot. Let's respect our differences.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Unless you have some information not on the article it makes no sense to demand and investigation and punishment for something that can be unrelated, it would not be the first nor the last time something is attributed to a vaccine or a drug just because it was close to the problem. First let the investigation finds the cause, and if it is the vaccine then yes responsible people should be punished. 

Yes, we all know certain posters are addicted to vaccines and probably have needles jabbed into their arms at this moment. But if your healthy son dies 2 days after putting a foreign viral particle into his body on purpose that raises suspicion.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

Only two things could have happened here with the flu shots. A contaminated or poorly sterilized needle which can range in fault of the manufacturer to the medical facility that administered the shot... or it could be their individual adverse reaction to the vaccine. I usually get a flu shot every few years or so just to give my immune system an update. Never had any problems and in the once in a blue moon I get the flu, it only lasts about 1-2 days.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I’d be a greater believer in the science if the scientists behind it didn’t have agendas. They discover the vaccine. Someone pushes the go button. A billion dollar investment takes off. Now it’s time to promote. Anti vaxxers start shooting. Damn the torpedoes, full straight ahead the captain shouts. A few souls are lost on the way. That’s the price of the influenza (& COVID-19) war.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

I've never gotten a flu jab. Haven't had the flu in over 10 years. Guess my antibodies are ninja navy SEALS now.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

You have to wonder if the anti-vaxxers will cause the collapse of America's economy. When the rest of us have been vaccinated and have moved on past Covid, Americans will still be arguing about whether viruses cause autism. Our economies will be moving along fine, while they'll still be a diseased nation.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

if you have a functioning immune system the flu shot isn't required.

BTW, I'm not anti vaxxer, I have had other actual vaccines because they are vaccines.

This doesn't mean the disease doesn't exist. White button mushrooms or wakame salad will boost your immunity and has been scientifically measurable by world scientists including Japan. Findings show they accelerate immunoglobulin A secretion.

search nutritionfacts.org for white button mushrooms and a second video for wakame.

Doctors are scared of telling people this because they think that they will ignore other vaccines but that it not true. By being afraid of stupid people they only embolden them. (USA #1!) But is it really a surprise that they push the pills and not the food? They don't have any nutritional training.

Just call it what it is, a flu booster shot. That's perfectly fine as there are those in society too sick to eat properly or have a normal BMI. If you need it, get it.

But the flu mutates too much so keep calling it a vaccine doesn't help and why there is this educational split. Which only emboldens an anti-vaxxer movement when it could have been avoided.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

When the rest of us have been vaccinated and have moved on past Covid, Americans will still be arguing about whether viruses cause autism.

Err... whether vaccines cause autism.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I usually get a flu shot every few years or so just to give my immune system an update.

I keep my immune system "updated" by breathing, while keeping my body as healthy as conveniently possible. Normally, we are constantly breathing in bacteria and viruses that challenge our immune system and keep it on its toes. I worry that with all the mask wearing, social distancing, and extra sanitizing that people's immune systems will weaken, and will eventually be dependent on vaccines for protection.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

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