South Korea's public health agency said Thursday that a total of 94 people, most of whom were elderly, died after receiving seasonal flu vaccines. The deaths have stoked public anxiety over the safety of such vaccines, but the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said 87 of those deaths have a very limited relationship with the flu shots. Another seven cases are under investigation.
Of the total, 40 people were in their 70s, followed by 38 people aged 80 or older, eight under 60 and eight in their 60s, the KDCA said. The health authorities have repeatedly said they have found no direct link between flu shots and deaths, urging people to get flu vaccinations before the onset of winter amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Public anxiety has heightened over the safety of flu vaccines after some vaccine bottles -- part of the country's free inoculation program -- were exposed to room temperature during distribution. The authorities, however, said there was no safety issue. So far, more than 12.14 million South Koreans have received free state flu shots, out of about 19 million people, including teenagers and senior citizens.
The KDCA said 1.05 million people, mostly in the low-income bracket, can receive free flu shots, beginning Thursday. Generally, flu season arrives between end-November and December. Considering that flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination, experts recommend people get flu shots by mid-November.