Vaccines kill, says some relatives, but proof is elusive
Jang Ha-yeon, a 43-year-old hairdresser living in Songpa District, southern Seoul, thought she was perfectly healthy. Without warning, she collapsed at home last Nov. 8.
She was rushed to the emergency room of Konkuk University Medical Center but deteriorated quickly.
On Nov. 14, Jang died — a month after receiving the second dose of a Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.
Jang's mother, Kang Seon-ok, is convinced the vaccine killed her daughter.
“After she got the second vaccine shot, she was listless and in bad condition for two weeks,” Kang says. “Then her body and limbs swelled up and she vomited, started coughing and collapsed to the floor."
The official cause of Jang's death was breast cancer and multiple organ failure, based on a biopsy and imaging scans done after she was admitted to the hospital on Nov. 8. A doctor’s note stated that Jang died of cancer — unspecified malignant neoplasm of the breast and secondary and unspecified malignant neoplasm of lymph nodes — and multiple organ failure.
"If she did have breast cancer," asks her mother, "it would have appeared in a full medical checkup previously and would have gradually worsened. It’s nonsense to believe she would like this all of a sudden,” Kang claimed.
Carrying a pile of documents in her small backpack, including the doctor's note, Kang has knocked on doors of the hospital, the local public health center and even Seoul City Hall, but couldn’t get any clear explanation. She joined a petition on the Blue House petition board calling for deaths after vaccinations to be investigated supported by the Citizens' Solidarity for the Truth of Covid-19, which erected on Jan. 22 a temporary memorial for Covid-19 victims near City Hall. It's made up of five tents.
The civic group offers pro bono work by lawyers for all victims of the Covid-19 pandemic, including relatives of people who died of the virus, small business owners hurt by social distancing rules — and families whose relatives suffered or died from adverse reactions to vaccines.
Korea has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. As of Feb. 6, 86 percent of its population had gotten two vaccine shots — ranking eighth in the world — and more than half have gotten booster shots.
But Korea's enthusiasm for vaccines comes at a cost: ill effects of vaccines, some deaths — and the suspicion of many more than are officially acknowledged.
According to the Citizens' Solidarity for the Truth of Covid-19, 1,700 people are suspected to have died after shots since the start of the inoculation campaign last February. Only two deaths have been recognized as having been caused by the vaccines. They are of a man in his 30s who died of thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) related to his AstraZeneca inoculation, and a Pfizer recipient in his 20s who died of myocarditis.
The other deaths can't be proven to be caused by the vaccines, or are considered totally unrelated — which some relatives simply can't accept.
About 300 meters away from the Citizens' Solidarity for the Truth of Covid-19's tents is another memorial tent in Cheonggye Plaza in central Seoul. It was set up on Jan. 11 by the Covid-19 Vaccination Victims’ Families Council. It believes the vaccines have taken many more victims than formally acknowledged.
Not knowing when Seoul City will tear down his temporary tent, Kim Doo-kyeong, president of the council, and Kwon Hyeok-woon, head of Ulsan District of the council, rented a house nearby and take turns manning the tent around the clock.
Kwon himself lost his 82-year-old mother, Lee Jeong-ae, last summer — after she was vaccinated.
“My mother had asthma and mild dementia symptoms, and my family wrote them all on the vaccination screening questionnaire,” Kwon says. “She was 82 years old but she ate well and could recite the Bible.”
Kwon told his mother to get vaccinated in order to travel, eat what she likes and pray and sing at church. But after she got her first Pfizer dose on June 10, she suffered from high fever and couldn’t move. She was hospitalized in an intensive care unit ten days later, but passed away on July 24 from blood poisoning and infectious endocarditis.
Kwon admits the complexilty of determining the link between the vaccine and his mother's death.
After submitting documents to the Vaccination Response Task Force at the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) and two months of waiting, Kwon received a Category 5 conclusion on Sept. 27 — meaning his mother's death was “definitely not related” to the vaccine and was concluded to be caused by an underlying disease or other cause.
Korea assesses a causal relationship between a death and a vaccine over a spectrum of five categories — from “definitely not related,” “probably not related,” “possibly related,” “probably related” and “definitely related.”
“It's absurd [...] that the KDCA made such a decision based on the underlying disease, which was asthma or dementia, neither of which were severe,” Kwon says.
“She wouldn’t have caught severe diseases like bacterial endocarditis, cerebral infarction and sepsis if she hadn’t been vaccinated,” Kwon says in tears. “I'm a bad son who pricked his own mother with a poisoned needle of death.”
Kwon has allowed disclosure of personal data to the KDCA to continue the investigation, but has been waiting for a response for more than a month.
His council represents nearly 700 families who lost loved ones and blame Covid-19 vaccines. There are around 60 photographic portraits of the victims in the tent. In front of two portraits of 18-year-old high school students who died were mufflers left by a stranger, to help keep their spirits warm in the cold weather.
The two civic groups are urging the government to review the safety of vaccines; disclose the government's deliberation process for suspected vaccine side effects; waive the need for vaccine passes for 12 to 17 year olds; enact a special act on compensation for vaccine victims; and install a memorial altar in Seoul Plaza.
"So far, 1,200 cases have been reported to have died from vaccine adverse reactions, and the number of patients who have died but not reported is 1,600," Son Young-rae, senior epidemiological strategist at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, told reporters on Jan. 20.
While two cases have been acknowledged for causality through thorough scientific verification, Son said a total of 13 cases have been recognized for their probability — meaning there is lack of evidence, and they will be reevaluated later. The majority of the other cases lack evidence or were caused by underlying diseases.
“Most of the deaths [suspected to have been caused by vaccines] are recognized to be not objectively and scientifically related to vaccines,” explained Son. “Statistically, in Korea, about 5,700 people die for various reasons in a week.”
Health authorities are ramping up efforts to compensate more who have suffered from vaccine side effects.
The government vowed to provide up to 5 million won ($4,200) in medical fee assistance to students under 19 who experienced serious side effects within 90 days of inoculations but were not compensated by the government for lack of causality.
It also gave exemptions to the vaccine pass system to people who have been hospitalized within six weeks of vaccination or those who applied for national compensation for vaccine side effects but were rejected due to insufficient proof of causality.
BY SEO JI-EUN [email@example.com]