Fearing the jab

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Fearing the jab

 People are worried about going to get their flu shots. The government has enhanced its free flu vaccine program amid the risk of a “twindemic” — an outbreak of the seasonal flu on top of Covid-19. But the headlines are scaring many away from going for flu vaccines.

A 78-year-old woman died in Gochang, North Jeolla, within 24 hours of receiving a flu shot. She got her jab at a village clinic after the government resumed a free vaccine program for the elderly.

Last week, a 17-year-old boy in Incheon died two days after he received a vaccine under the state program.

His injection was from Shinsung Pharm, which caused a halt to the distribution of the free vaccine after problems were found in its deliveries of vaccines. Some were not refrigerated, which they must be.

Health authorities claimed the vaccines the two fatalities received were not part of the batch that was left at room temperature during shipping. Neither the old woman nor the young man had health problems that could explain their sudden deaths.

Neither of the deaths may be related to the vaccines. But since the two died so soon after being vaccinated, the causes of death must be verified quickly.

The teenager died on Oct. 16 after receiving his flu shot two days before. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) announced the mishap on Oct. 19.

If any deaths occur after vaccinations, clinics and hospitals administrating the shots should be alerted as soon as possible. If warnings are late, unnecessary deaths could take place.

The free flu vaccine program this year has been raising apprehension. Authorities stopped the distribution Sept. 21 upon discovering some of the supplies were exposed at room temperature during transportation. The KDCA assured the public that no one received the supplies in that batch.

But its announcement turned out to be wrong, which was not good for its credibility. The KDCA was upgraded to an agency last month, with an enlarged organization and budget. That brings on greater responsibility.

The agency in charge of protecting the public from infectious diseases is causing alarm among the people. The agency must investigate thoroughly the causes of the two deaths and ensure safety in the influenza program to prevent the danger of an outbreak of virus-related sicknesses this winter.

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