Deaths after flu vaccination keep rising in South Korea. But as local health authorities work to calm concerned citizens by refuting a connection between the two, a fellow Asian country has taken the precautionary measure of suspending two shots given to people who later died.
Singapore has temporarily pulled its backing for SK Bioscience’s SKYCellflu Quadrivalent and Sanofi Pasteur’s VaxigripTetra, the Ministry of Health said Sunday. Among the seven brands administered to people who died in South Korea, these two are the only ones also available in Singapore.
Healthcare providers can still use two other flu shots sold in Singapore, and the agency said it will continue to monitor the situation and keep in touch with South Korean authorities.
As of Monday, at least 59 people, mostly in their 70s and 80s, have died in South Korea following flu vaccination, up from 46 Saturday. That’s among more than 14.7 million people who have been inoculated this season.
Last year, more than 1,500 elderly people died within seven days of taking flu vaccines—deaths that were not linked to immunization, the government said, according to Reuters. Old people and young children in South Korea are eligible for free inoculations under a national scheme.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDAC) said Thursday that it had not found a link between the deaths and the flu shots, asking citizens to continue with vaccinations.
In a statement to Fierce Pharma on Monday, a Sanofi spokesperson pointed to KDCA’s investigation, stressing that the agency's probe has confirmed no link between vaccines and the deaths.
Korean officials are also trying to persuade an increasingly anxious public that the vaccines are safe, and that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any side effects.
“Do trust the health authorities’ conclusion...reached after a review with experts,” President Moon Jae-in said at a meeting, as quoted by Reuters. “There is a need to expand the influenza vaccination this year not only to prevent the flu, but also to ward off concurrent infection and spread of flu and COVID-19.”
Other than some normally mild side effects, such as injection site reactions, flu vaccines may cause dangerous allergic shock in some people. But as is the case with a person who’s allergic to peanuts and accidentally eats one, such allergic reactions to vaccines happen within minutes. No such case has been reported in South Korea, the local government said, per Reuters.