Ten people have died after getting flu shots in South Korea in the past week raising concerns over the vaccine's safety just as the seasonal inoculation program is expanded to head off potential COVID-19 complications.
Health authorities here are carrying out epidemiological investigations of the deaths of the people who had received the shot and autopsies to determine the exact cause of death, they haven't found any linkage. Nonetheless, some are worried.
"We have not found a direct connection between deaths and vaccines or post-vaccination reactions. Considering no major severe adverse effects have been reported from a specific vaccine, there was no reason to suspend the whole vaccination program."
"As a mother of a child, I'm worried about the situation. I want to wait until we have confirmation on the safety of the vaccine especially since I think wearing masks can also protect us from the flu."
"Although small in numbers, I keep seeing news reports about those who died after getting free flu vaccinations. It makes me worry. I plan to get a flu shot soon, but not the free ones."
The deaths have been dominating headlines in South Korea especially as they come just weeks after the rollout of the national vaccine program was suspended over safety concerns.
How safe are vaccines in general particularly as the entire world awaits for the arrival of a Covid-19 vaccine?
Let's talk about it. Joining us live in the studio is Dr. Anh Wartel, Associate Director General of Epidemiology, Public Health, Impact, Clinical Development at the International Vaccine Institute.
Dr. Wartel, welcome to the show.
Although we know that a Covid vaccine is no panacea, the entire world is eagerly waiting for one as it's probably the only way for us to return to life as we know it. To travel freely across borders, to interact with those around us.
But, the latest death cases in South Korea after receiving flu shots is creating sort of a vaccinophobia among some people. As a vaccine expert, what are your thoughts on the latest news?
Medical professionals around the world have been recommending that people make sure to get their flu shots this year more than ever amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, as we eagerly await a Covid vaccine, we also need to get vaccinated for the seasonal flu.
I think it's important to first understand the basics of how vaccines work. How do vaccinations work in our bodies?
Now that I think back, I think there have been few instances where I would a mild fever or soreness after getting the flu vaccine. Are these side effects? How common are side effects to vaccinations?
Are there serious adverse reactions to flu shots as well?
There are speculations that some of the latest deaths could have been severe cases of anaphylactic shocks. We're also hearing of something called the Guillain-Barre syndrome. What are these and how do you make sure you are not prone to these side effects?
So, if you're a healthy individual with great biomarkers, why risk any potential negative side effects of a vaccine?
What are some precautions we should take prior to getting our flu shots?
Meanwhile on the Covid vaccine front or the search for one, scientists at Imperial College London say they're opening up a new, uncertain path to identifying an effective vaccine.
The plan is to deliberately infect volunteers with the coronavirus. This strategy, some argue, could potentially shave crucial time in the race to winnow a number of vaccine candidates.
Help us understand this strategy. First, is this safe? How effective will this be? Is it ethical?
Where are we in terms of Covid-19 vaccine development? How close are we to the rollout of a Covid vaccine?
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, trust in vaccines was a growing challenge for public health bodies. The World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top ten global health threats for last year.
A poll earlier this month in South Korea found that 62-percent of 2,548 respondents in the greater capital area would not get vaccinated against Covid-19, even if a vaccine is approved, until all safety questions are fully answered.
What are your thoughts?
Dr. Anh Wartel, Associate Director General of Epidemiology, Public Health, Impact, Clinical Development at the International Vaccine Institute, many thanks for your insights. We appreciate it.