South Korea to temporarily halt free flu shot scheme over storage mishap

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SEOUL (Sept 22): South Korea will temporarily halt its plan to offer free seasonal flu vaccines due to storage issues involving inactivated bottles, health authorities here said Tuesday.

The government was to provide free flu shots to around 19 million people, or 37% of the country's population, Yonhap news agency reported.

Children between 6 months and 18 years old, pregnant women and those aged 62 years old or above were included.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said some of around 5 million doses of flu vaccines were partially exposed to temperatures outside the storage range.

Inactivated vaccines should be stored in refrigerators, and exposure to room temperature could result in decreased vaccine potency and increased risk of vaccine-preventable diseases.

As autumn is approaching, the government was to provide free flu shots, as it is not easy to distinguish the novel coronavirus and flu patients due to similar symptoms, such as coughing, a sore throat and fever.