Flu vaccines administered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have not led to any deaths since 1998 and are completely safe, CDC Deputy-Director Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said yesterday.
The comments came after reports that an 11-month-old female baby surnamed Chang (張) hadpassed away suddenly in Greater Taichung and her parents suspected the flu shot, which she had received the previous day, was to blame.
The centers have been administering state-funded influenza vaccines to certain groups since the beginning of the month, and to date 600,000 adults and 23,000 children have been vaccinated, Chou said.
There were six reports of adverse reactions to the vaccines, with five children exhibiting localized swelling and tiredness directly after their vaccinations, but they all recovered soon after, he said.
The other report was the female baby, Chou said.
The head of Taichung General Veterans Hospital’s department of pediatrics, Chen Po-yen (陳伯彥), said that localized swelling, a light fever, or other mild cases of discomfort were all normal side effects.
In rare cases, the flu vaccine can cause death from acute anaphylactic shock, Chen said, adding that it was best for parents to stay in the hospital for at least half an hour after the vaccination is administered in case this side effect occurs.
The disease control section of the Taichung City Government’s Bureau of Health said that Chang had exhibited symptoms of having a slight fever prior to the vaccination, but after doctors had examined her they concluded that it was safe for her to be vaccinated.
An autopsy to determine the cause of death has been scheduled for Thursday, the government said, adding that it would cooperate with judiciary units to get to the bottom of the issue as soon as possible to assuage the public’s fears.
Meanwhile, Chou said that since the centers began administering state-funded flu vaccines in 1998, there had been 687 reports of adverse reactions, but only 13 were linked to the vaccine, he said.
Of the 13, seven exhibited localized swelling, two exhibited cellulitis after vaccination, two suffered an acute anaphylactic response, one had urticaria and the last one had rhabdomyolysis — a breakdown of muscle fibers — Chou said.
However, “there were no deaths,” he added.
Statistics indicate that the “vaccine against influenza is quite safe,” Chou said.
More than 100 people die and more than 1,000 are hospitalized annually from complications caused by influenza, Chou said, urging the public to get their vaccinations prior to the influenza season.