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S. Korea to continue flu vaccinations amid probe into deaths

S. Korea to continue flu vaccinations amid probe into deaths
Health authorities in South Korea said on Wednesday they plan to continue their flu vaccination program despite reports that five people died after receiving flu shots in the past week.

There is no reason to believe the government scheme was linked to the reported deaths, according to Jeong Eun-kyeong, the director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). Officials will launch an investigation into the deaths of these five people and four others who had received the shots, Jeong said, adding that the program, which started at the beginning of September, will not be suspended.

The authorities, however, had already halted the vaccinations in September after some of about 5 million doses were partially exposed to temperatures outside the storage range during distribution. The vaccinations were intended for infants and children, and were not re-started until the middle of this month, amid growing concerns over their safety.

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The five people who died in the past week after receiving shots include two senior citizens and a 17-year-old boy. The KDCA said the boy received a vaccine shipped by state-contracted vendor Shinsung Pharm, a distributor of vaccine bottles that were exposed to room temperature during shipment.

The reports of new deaths came as the government tries to prevent a ‘twindemic’ – a convergence of the seasonal flu and the coronavirus. Health authorities planned to provide free flu shots to around 19 million people, or 37 percent of the population. About 8.3 million people have been inoculated with the free vaccine since the campaign resumed on October 13.

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