A nonsensical flop

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A nonsensical flop

 State-sponsored free influenza shots administered to the elderly and children were suddenly suspended, stoking fears among citizens amid warnings of a double virus threat in cold weather. The administration was called off a day before initial jabs were to start from Tuesday for minors under 18 and pregnant women over safety concerns.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) alerted the unprecedented suspension late Monday just hours after it received a report from the distributor of the vaccines, acknowledging problems in storing the vaccines. The distributor was in charge of 12.59 million doses laid out for 5 million people aged 13 to 18.

Vaccines should be stored in a certain temperature through the entire process — from production to final administration. According to the authorities, the distributor admitted that the vaccines were temporarily exposed to room temperature during shipping procedures.

The potency and safety of vaccines can be destroyed when they are exposed to room temperature. Authorities maintained the vaccines themselves do not have quality risk, but that the distribution is being suspended to examine if any of them have been compromised during the shipping process.

The problem was initially learned through a third-party report — not by the distributor itself. That suggests laxity in the oversight of vaccine management. Without the whistle-blower, authorities would not have been aware of the blunder. Given the blanket administration of the vaccines, any harm could have caused a major disaster.

It would take around two weeks for results to come out from a quality check on the vaccines in question. The flu shots will be delayed that long. If 5 million doses are scrapped, supply shortage concerns may arise and harden the campaign to prevent the double virus attack. As drug makers have already finished their production of influenza vaccines, they cannot make or import more.

The government reserved 29.5 million doses of flu shots for this winter, including 19 million free shots. Authorities must be thorough and transparent in the examination so as not to add to public anxiety and ensure such mismanagement does not happen again.

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