Then, earlier this month, 615,000 doses of a flu vaccine shipped by another company were also recalled after some of them were found to contain white particles, which the government described as being a harmless protein. Almost 18,000 people had received doses before they were recalled.
No serious harm had been reported from either those lots, though dozens of people who received those doses reported fevers or other minor complaints — which are common reactions to flu shots, officials said. None of nine people who died had received vaccines from those that had been recalled, they added.
After suspending the vaccination program for teenagers for three weeks, it resumed on Oct. 13. Three days later, a 17-year-old boy in Incheon, just west of Seoul, died after receiving his shot. On Tuesday, a 77-year-old woman was found dead at her home in Gochang, south of Seoul, after being vaccinated a day earlier. On the same day, an 82-year-old man who had also been inoculated died in the central city of Daejeon.
Four of the five people who died on Wednesday ranged in age from 53 to 89. Information about the two other people who died, one on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, has not been released.
Nine of those who died, all of whom had received flu shots in the past, received vaccines supplied by several different local drugmakers, officials said.
“Since most people who got flu shots with the same vaccines reported no major problems, we concluded that those vaccines do not contain toxic materials,” said Kim Joong-gon, a professor of medicine at Seoul National University who led a team of investigators. “We concluded that we can exclude the vaccine as a problem.”
In general, flu vaccines have a good safety record. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the body of scientific evidence over decades “overwhelmingly” supports their safety.