South Korea is bracing itself for the upcoming flu season as the country enters winter. Health officials have stated that they found no link between the flu vaccinations given out this year to the sudden increase in the death rates.
South Korea prepares for flu season
The South Korean government has rolled out a flu vaccine campaign, as they are concerned about the potential spread of COVID-19 and influenza simultaneously.
Around 36 people have died after taking flu vaccinations as of October 16, including a 17-year-old. The average age of those who died was 74, according to KDCA or the South Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
As of October 23, around 14 million people were recorded to have received the flu vaccine. Out of the 14 million, about 9.4 million were children, senior citizens, and pregnant women, according to the records released by KDCA.
A professor at South Korea's National Cancer Centre, Ki Moran, stated that the flu vaccine had rarely caused side effects. In fact, the chances are one out of 10 million people.
In 2019, around 227,000 people over the age of 65 had died in the country, Moran said. That is 621 deaths a day. The KDCA decided not to suspect the giving of flu vaccinations.
The vaccination expert committee will hold a meeting on October 24 to review the additional data given by medial experts, according to a statement released by KDCA.
Rare side effects
The meeting of medial professionals came after the scrutiny from politicians and experts.
On October 23, 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.
There was no call to stop the vaccination campaign despite the possible risk.
The Korean Medical Association, which consists of 130,000 doctors as members, has urged the government to suspend the vaccination program for at least a week until they know the cause of the deaths.
In a separate statement, the Korean Vaccine Society emphasized the importance of the flu vaccine, especially for the elderly, children, and those with a low immune system and chronic diseases.
The organization cited concerns about the possible spread of flu during the coronavirus pandemic as they may spread simultaneously.
Medical experts around the world are preparing for the flu season in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with JAMA Network that this year is critical due to the pandemic, and it is important to get the flu off the table as much as possible.
One reason is to decrease the strain on hospitals and other medical centers that are already overwhelmed because of the pandemic. Experts say that it is possible to get both the COVID-19 and the flu, and since flu symptoms are similar to that of COVID-19, it will be difficult to rule out a COVID-19 diagnosis without a test.
According to Johns Hopkins University, around 25,775 people have COVID-19 infection, and about 457 people had died.
South Korea had been praised as one of the countries that was able to handle the pandemic with low death rates.