South Korea urges people to get flu vaccinations despite concerns about deaths

South Korean commuters wear protective masks as they crowd after getting off the subway during rush hour on September 15, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.

Chung Sung-Jun | Getty Images

South Korea urged citizens to get vaccinated against influenza and reduce the chances of an outbreak that coincides with the battle on the coronavirus, as it kicked off free inoculations for the last eligible group.

Public anxiety over the safety of flu vaccines has surged after at least 48 people died this month following vaccinations, while, last month, about 5 million doses had to be disposed of after not being stored at recommended temperatures.

Authorities have said they found no direct link between the deaths and the flu shots and have sought to reassure South Koreans about the safety of the vaccines against flu, a disease that kills at least 3,000 each year.

“Vaccination offers far greater benefits compared to side effects, and both the WHO and domestic and overseas experts agree,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told a briefing on Sunday, in a reference to the World Health Organization.

Last year, more than 1,500 elderly people died within seven days of receiving flu vaccines, but those deaths were not linked to the vaccinations, the government said.

As South Korea presses on with its inoculations, southeast Asia’s tiny city state of Singapore became one of the first nations this week to call a temporary halt to the use of two influenza vaccines, as a precaution.

Singapore has reported no deaths linked to flu vaccinations.

South Korea ordered 20% more flu vaccines this year to ward off the prospect of what it calls a “twindemic” of concurrent major flu and coronavirus outbreaks in winter.

At least 1,154 instances of adverse reactions have been reported from among more than 9.4 million people inoculated since the effort began in September.

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South Korea urges people to get flu vaccinations despite death tolls

By Sangmi Cha

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea urged citizens to get vaccinated against influenza and reduce the chances of an outbreak that coincides with the battle on the coronavirus, as it kicked off free inoculations for the last eligible group.

Public anxiety over the safety of flu vaccines has surged after at least 48 people died this month following vaccinations, while, last month, about 5 million doses had to be disposed of after not being stored at recommended temperatures.

Authorities have said they found no direct link between the deaths and the flu shots and have sought to reassure South Koreans about the safety of the vaccines against flu, a disease that kills at least 3,000 each year.

“Vaccination offers far greater benefits compared to side effects, and both the WHO and domestic and overseas experts agree,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told a briefing on Sunday, in a reference to the World Health Organization.

Last year, more than 1,500 elderly people died within seven days of receiving flu vaccines, but those deaths were not linked to the vaccinations, the government said.

As South Korea presses on with its inoculations, southeast Asia’s tiny city state of Singapore became one of the first nations this week to call a temporary halt to the use of two influenza vaccines, as a precaution.

Singapore has reported no deaths linked to flu vaccinations.

South Korea ordered 20% more flu vaccines this year to ward off the prospect of what it calls a “twindemic” of concurrent major flu and coronavirus outbreaks in winter.

At least 1,154 instances of adverse reactions have been reported from among more than 9.4 million people inoculated since the effort began in September.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps)

(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Clarence Fernandez)

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South Korea Tries to Quell Anxiety Over Flu Shots After 13 Unexplained Deaths

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.

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South Korea tests at hospitals, nursing homes

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea on Monday began testing tens of thousands of employees of hospitals and nursing homes to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks at live-in facilities.

Fifteen of the 76 latest cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency were from the southern port city of Busan, where more than 70 infections have been linked to a hospital for the elderly.

The disease caused by the coronavirus can be more serious in older people and those with existing health conditions like high-blood pressure.

Health workers have been scrambling to track infections in the Seoul metropolitan area, home to about half of the country’s 51 million people, as the virus spreads in a variety of places, including hospitals, churches, schools and workplaces.

From Monday, they will start a process to test 130,000 workers at hospitals, nursing homes and senior centers in the greater capital area. Officials will also test 30,000 patients who have visited and used these facilities, but will leave out hospitalized patients, who already receive tests when they are admitted.


Officials plan to complete the tests within October and could possibly expand the screening to other regions if needed.

South Korea has confirmed 25,275 cases of coronavirus infection, including 444 deaths from COVID-19.

In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:

— India has reported 579 fatalities from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, the lowest increase in three months, driving its death toll to 114,610. The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 55,722 more people infected, raising India’s total to more than 7.5 million. A government-appointed committee of scientists said Sunday the disease was likely to “run its course” by February if people used masks and adhered to distancing measures. The number of new infections confirmed each day has declined for a month. The committee said even if active cases increased during the upcoming festive season and cold weather, they were unlikely to surpass India’s record daily high of 97,894 cases.

— China’s economic growth accelerated to 4.9% over a year earlier in the latest quarter as a shaky recovery from the coronavirus pandemic gathered strength. China, where virus outbreaks began in December, became the first major economy to return to growth with a 3.2% expansion in the quarter ending in June. Output contracted 6.8% in the first quarter. The ruling Communist Party began easing anti-disease controls and reopening factories, shops and offices in March after declaring the virus under control but has kept monitoring and some travel controls in place.

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Asia Today: South Korea testing at hospitals, nursing homes

South Korea is testing tens of thousands of employees of hospitals and nursing homes to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks at live-in facilities

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea on Monday began testing tens of thousands of employees of hospitals and nursing homes to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks at live-in facilities.

Fifteen of the 76 latest cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency were from the southern port city of Busan, where more than 70 infections have been linked to a hospital for the elderly.

Health workers have been scrambling to track infections in the Seoul metropolitan area, home to about half of the country’s 51 million people, as the virus spreads in a variety of places, including hospitals, churches, schools and workplaces.

From Monday, they will start a process to test 130,000 workers at hospitals, nursing homes and senior centers in the greater capital area. Officials will also test 30,000 patients who have visited and used these facilities, but will leave out hospitalized patients, who already receive tests when they are admitted.

Officials plan to complete the tests within October and could possibly expand the screening to other regions if needed.

South Korea has confirmed 25,275 cases of coronavirus infection, including 444 deaths from COVID-19.

In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region:

— China’s economic growth accelerated to 4.9% over a year earlier in the latest quarter as a shaky recovery from the coronavirus pandemic gathered strength. China, where virus outbreaks began in December, became the first major economy to return to growth with a 3.2% expansion in the quarter ending in June. Output contracted 6.8% in the first quarter. The ruling Communist Party began easing anti-disease controls and reopening factories, shops and offices in March after declaring the virus under control but has kept monitoring and some travel controls in place.

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