The Korean Medical Association has called on the country’s government to halt its plan to inoculate millions of citizens after more than a dozen people died after receiving flu shots.
The vaccine initiative, billed as a strategy to potentially offset complications from Covid-19, aims to provide free flu jabs to 19 million people. But the ambitious undertaking has come under fire after 13 people died, including a 17-year-old boy and a man in his 70s, after participating in the program.
The vaccination drive was suspended for three weeks after it was revealed that around five million doses, which require refrigeration, had been stored at room temperature while being transpired to a medical facility. The program resumed on October 13. None of the people who died received the recalled doses.
During a press conference on Thursday, Choi Dae-zip, president of the Korean Medical Association, requested that the flu shot campaign be put on hold until safety concerns about the vaccine could be properly addressed.
Korean health authorities claim that they have found no direct links between the reported deaths and the flu shot.
“The number of deaths has increased, but our team sees low possibility that the deaths resulted from the shots,” Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said while addressing parliament. Health Minister Park Neung-hoo acknowledged that people were “concerned” about the vaccine but said that the program would continue.
A preliminary investigation into six of the deaths found no direct link to the jab they received.
Since the program was resumed, 8.3 million Koreans have received flu shots, with about 350 negative reactions to the jab reported, according to health officials.
Vaccine safety has become a hot button issue as governments and pharmaceutical companies rush to develop an effective coronavirus jab. Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency said on Wednesday that a volunteer who was participating in the Oxford University trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine had died of complications from Covid-19. However, the individual may have been part of a control group taking a placebo.