South Korea deaths 'not linked' to flu vaccination drive


South Korean authorities say the death of a 17-year old has no links to a flu vaccination he received shortly before.

There has been some alarm after a number of deaths following flu shots in the country. At least 32 people have died after getting the vaccine.

Health officials say there is no link to the state-run vaccinations programme, which will continue. So far, some 13m people have been vaccinated.

They are hoping to prevent a mass flu outbreak as the country battles Covid.

The 17-year old boy was among the first reported to have died after receiving the vaccine. Now, the country's forensic agency says it has found no evidence that the flu shot caused his death.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun expressed condolences to the families of those who died, calling for a thorough investigation into the exact cause of deaths. But he reiterated that the vaccines were unlikely to be the reason.

"So far, experts said there was low possibility that the shots and deaths were related but many citizens remain anxious," he said.

The Korean Vaccine Society has also advised that the flu shots should continue.

However, the Korean Medical Association, a health workers' union, said the government should consider postponing the nationwide program.

"We agree that flu vaccinations should continue," KMA official Min Yang-ki said according to news agency Yonhap. "We are not calling the government to completely halt the vaccination, but to temporarily suspend it for about one week to find out the exact cause [of death]."

South Korea wants its vulnerable population groups like senior citizens vaccinated against seasonal flu this year.

The influenza season usually begins by the end of November and there are fears that if it runs parallel with the coronavirus pandemic, it would increase the risks for those vulnerable groups. According to Yonhap, around 3,000 flu-related deaths are recorded in South Korea each year.

Media caption,
Reality Check takes a look at the flu vaccine.