S’pore advises temporarily ceasing flu vaccines after deaths in S Korea

SINGAPORE (CNA) The Ministry of Health (MoH) has advised that the use of two influenza vaccines in Singapore be “temporarily ceased” as a precautionary measure after deaths were reported in South Korea following vaccinations.

South Korean health authorities said they have found no direct link between the deaths and the flu shots.

“This is a precautionary measure following reported deaths after influenza vaccination in South Korea,” MoH said in a press release on Sunday.

“No deaths associated with influenza vaccination have been reported in Singapore to date.”

Dozens of South Koreans died this month after receiving flu shots as part of a state-run vaccination programme. As of Saturday, 48 deaths had been reported.

On Sunday, MoH said the ministry and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) were monitoring the situation closely.

A woman receives an influenza vaccine at a hospital in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: CNA

“HSA is in touch with the South Korean authorities for further information as they investigate to determine if the deaths are related to influenza vaccinations.

“Based on information released by the South Korean health authorities, seven brands of influenza vaccines were administered to the individuals involved in the deaths reported in South Korea,” the ministry said. Two of the seven brands are available in Singapore, MoH added. They are SKYCellflu Quadrivalent, manufactured by SK Bioscience and locally distributed by AJ Biologics; and VaxigripTetra, manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur and locally distributed by Sanofi Aventis.

“As a precautionary measure while HSA is assessing the implications of the reported deaths in South Korea, MOH has informed healthcare providers and medical practitioners to temporarily stop the use of these two vaccines,” the ministry said.

It added, “Healthcare providers and medical practitioners may continue to use the two other influenza vaccines that have been brought into Singapore for the Northern Hemisphere 2020/21 influenza season.”

MoH said that people recommended to receive the influenza vaccination may continue to receive their vaccination using other brands of vaccines.

This included people recommended to receive the vaccination under the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule and National Adult Immunisation Schedule.

The ministry added that the vaccination provided protection against seasonal influenza viruses, and was effective in reducing the risk of complications and deaths due to influenza.

“This is especially so for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the young, pregnant women and those with certain pre-existing medical conditions,” it said.

“Influenza vaccination is generally safe and well tolerated.”

The ministry said common side effects from influenza vaccination may include soreness and redness at the injection site, fever, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue and nausea.

“These side effects are generally mild and resolve on their own. In rare instances, a person may experience high fever or severe allergic reactions (such as breathing difficulty, wheezing and swelling around the eyes) and immediate medical attention should be sought,” MoH said.