Spike in Flu Shot Deaths Begs Skepticism

flu shot effectiveness
In South Korea, 36 people have died of flu shots in  2020 and 65 people in 2019 & vaccines were only 29% effective. 

At least 36 people have died after taking flu vaccinations since last Friday, including a 17-year-old. The average age of those who died was 74, according to the South Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

As of Friday, more than 14 million people had gotten the flu vaccine, of which 9.4 million were children, elderly, and pregnant women, according to the KDCA.  Ki Moran, a professor at South Korea's National Cancer Centre, said the flu vaccine is known to cause serious side effects in one out of 10 million people.

In 2019, 227,000 people over the age of 65 died in South Korea, she added. That's an average of 621 deaths a day, to put the recent figures into perspective. The KDCA decided on Friday not to suspend the flu vaccinations. The vaccination expert committee will hold a meeting Saturday morning to review additional data, according to a KDCA statement.

The KDCA's Friday meeting came after rising scrutiny from experts and politicians.
On Friday, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called for a thorough investigation into the deaths, citing public anxiety, according to a press release by the Health Ministry. He did not call for a halt to the vaccination campaign.

The Korean Medical Association, a coalition of 130,000 doctors, has urged the government to suspend the vaccination program for a week until they determined the cause of the deaths.

In a statement, the Korean Vaccine Society emphasized the importance of the flu vaccine, especially "for children, the elderly, and patients with chronic diseases and low immune system." The organization cited concerns about the possible spread of flu during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Experts globally are preparing for flu season in the middle of the pandemic. "This is a critical year for us to try to take flu as much off the table as we can," said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an interview with the AMA's JAMA Network.
One reason is to decrease the strain on public health services and hospitals, which are bracing for a winter wave. Experts say it possible to get Covid-19 and the flu simultaneously -- and, because flu symptoms look so similar to that of Covid-19, it will be impossible to rule out a coronavirus diagnosis without a test. That means a case of the flu can cause substantial disruption to work and school.
In South Korea, Covid-19 has infected 25,775 people and killed 457, according to Johns Hopkins University.

At least seven companies’ products were reportedly tied to the deaths, including France-based Sanofi and six domestic firms—SK Bioscience, Shinsung Pharm, Korea Vaccine, GC Pharma, Boryung Biopharma and LG Chem. Sanofi didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Back in September, before the deaths began, the KDCA temporarily halted its free national flu inoculation program, citing cold-chain problems. Turns out, a batch of Shinsung’s vaccines were left at room temperature during transportation when they should have been refrigerated. A recall followed, but some 2,300 doses had already been given, according to The New York Times. High temperatures would render a flu vaccine ineffective but not likely toxic.

Most of the deaths happened in elderly people, who are covered by the country’s free vaccination scheme. KDCA said Thursday that at least seven of the nine people it investigated had underlying health problems, according to Reuters.


How effective is this year's flu shot? Here's what we know so far. 

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