Ensure flu vaccine safetyEven with the rising death toll after flu vaccination, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) maintained it would proceed with the state vaccination program. During a hearing on health and welfare issues, lawmakers called for the vaccination program to be halted until the vaccines are proven safe. KDCA Director Jung Eun-kyeong claimed the vaccinations could not be directly connected to the deaths despite the rising death toll.
Shots for the seasonal flu are strongly advised for the elderly and pregnant women. But the sudden rise in deaths after flu shots calls for more prudence — and a suspension in the vaccination.
Health authorities have been concerned about the so-called twindemic — the double spread of the coronavirus and the flu — during the winter. Preventive measures to lessen the danger of infectious diseases are necessary. The disease control agency and local governments must keep a close watch on the shots administered to the elderly, pregnant women and children. They must act fast upon signs of danger to health.
Vaccines should be examined for any defects. Director Jung claimed that safety of vaccine production goes through multiple checks for any hazardous contamination by the food and drug safety agency.
But this year could be exceptional as the government has hastily ordered an increase in supplies to address the twindemic. The increase in vaccines for the state program to supply to 19 million people could have caused problems in the production. The flu program had to be temporarily suspended after some were found to have been unrefrigerated during the shipping process.
Preservatives can be used in multi-dose flu vaccines to prevent contamination by dangerous germs and bacteria, and overdose can be fatal to some people. But bacteria and toxic ingredients in vaccines do not directly fall under the scrutiny of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. As a result, there could have been loopholes in the safety checks on the vaccines.
Politics are being prioritized over public health. The ruling party is over-defensive of Director Jung and plays down the flu crisis in fear of its potential impact on President Moon Jae-in. The opposition party has also politicized the affair calling the flu shot a “death shot.”
Covid-19 daily cases have also surged to three digits. Health authorities are fighting the double disease whammy. Since Covid-19 is still without a vaccine, the battle against influenza must be settled by ensuring the safety of the flu vaccine first.
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