Health minister makes public display of getting a flu jab

28-Oct-2020 Intellasia | Koreaherald | 6:02 AM Print This Post

South Korean minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo once again urged people to get vaccinated against the flu on Tuesday, and in an attempt to dispel the mounting public hesitancy, he got a flu jab that afternoon at a clinic in Sejong.

The minister’s move comes after 59 deaths with suspected ties to flu vaccines were reported as of Monday.

During October 7′s session of the ongoing parliamentary audit, main opposition People Power Party Rep. Kang Gi-yun suggested the minister as well as himself receive the vaccine exposed to heat to assure the public of its safety.

“I believe the public health authorities have worked to the best of their abilities to survey the situation and concluded that (the heat-exposed vaccines) are safe,” Park said in response. “If my receiving the vaccine is necessary to alleviate the concerns, then I would (get vaccinated).”

Confusion and anxiety are rife among the Korean public over flu vaccines, which have been riddled with a series of highly unusual mishaps this year. Earlier this month, more than 1 million doses of the flu vaccine were recalled due either to cold chain breaches or contamination.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency has consistently said the vaccines were not marred in terms of safety or efficacy, and that there was no evidence to link the reported deaths to vaccination.

In Monday’s chief of staff meeting, President Moon Jae-in asked for people’s trust in the flu vaccines.

“Trust the experts at our public health agencies,” he said. “Don’t let the excessive anxiety make you miss the vaccination and expose yourself to the risk of catching the flu, which is fairly lethal.”

Such blanket dismissals from the government are not likely to restore people’s trust in the flu vaccines, according to infectious disease specialist Dr Kim Woo-joo of Korea University Medical centre in Guro, southern Seoul.

“So far the authorities have limited the investigations to examining the casualties only,” he said, pointing out the apparent lack of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety’s role amid the rising number of reported deaths.

“The Drug Safety Ministry should be looking at the vaccines belonging to the same batch of vaccines as the ones that the deceased persons had received. Not all of the millions of mismanaged or contaminated vaccines have been withdrawn.”

Kim added that the deaths need to be “taken very seriously,” and that only a “thorough investigation and transparent communication of its process” will give people an assurance the vaccines’ safety.

Former director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention and pulmonologist Dr Jung Ki-suck said the government should relay the findings as promptly as possible.

“A series of unprecedented errors have plagued this year’s annual influenza vaccination programme. People are understandably worried,” he said.

Health experts agree being immunised against the flu will be crucial this winter, as the ongoing pandemic adds a dangerous twist.

But more importantly, a vaccine must be safe, the Korean Medical Association said in a statement last Thursday.

Meanwhile, a family of one of the deceased flu vaccine recipients denounced the authorities in an online petition posted Tuesday on the presidential website.

In the post, the brother of a 17-year-old who died roughly 40 hours after he had gotten a flu shot accused the police and the forensic service of determining the case to be a suicide without due investigation.

The high school student was found dead in the morning of October 16 at his home in Incheon. His family claims he was a previously healthy teenager before he received the vaccine in the early afternoon of October 14.

“The authorities are trying to make my little brother’s death out to be a case of suicide without thoroughly investigating the connection to the vaccine,” the post read.

The post said the forensic examiners told the family there was a “zero possibility” of the vaccine having been a cause, and that they found high levels of nitrite in his stomach.

“The health officials also briefed the press about his dying following vaccination without informing us,” the post added.

The KDCA’s spokesperson said the agency has apologised to the family for holding the briefing without notifying them in advance, but explained that the agency was “obligated to brief on incidence of adverse events.”


Category: Korea

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