Health authorities conduct probe into death of teenager following vaccination

Posted on : 2021-11-01 17:51 KST Modified on : 2021-11-01 17:51 KST
COVID-19 vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds are set to start Monday
At a hospital in Seoul’s Yangcheon District, a teenager receives a COVID-19 vaccination on Sept. 18, the day vaccinations for 16- to 17-year-olds began in South Korea. (pool photo)
At a hospital in Seoul’s Yangcheon District, a teenager receives a COVID-19 vaccination on Sept. 18, the day vaccinations for 16- to 17-year-olds began in South Korea. (pool photo)

With COVID-19 vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds starting Monday, the first instance of a teenager dying after being vaccinated was confirmed Friday, causing alarm among Korean parents and health authorities alike.

South Korea’s COVID-19 vaccine response team revealed Saturday that a male high school senior died on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 75 days after receiving his vaccination. The young man had completed his vaccination on Aug. 13 and had no underlying conditions.

The vaccination response team said that this was “the first instance of a post-vaccination death of a person in their teens being reported. So far, no association between the case and the vaccine has been found.”

The team added that it’s carrying out a rapid response at the local government level and following the response protocol for adverse reactions, including severe symptoms and death. It also noted that the team for investigating damage from vaccinations working under the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency and other experts will “thoroughly examine the related data.”

Vaccinations for high school seniors taking the College Scholastic Ability Test and school staff began in July. First doses were administered on July 19-30, and second doses were administered on Aug. 9-10.

Currently, vaccine reservations for those aged 12 to 17 are open, meaning there is a possibility that, regardless of causation, the news of this young person’s death may impact vaccination rates among young people going forward. As of Friday, roughly 570,000 people aged 16-17 had made reservations for a vaccine appointment — a rate of 65.4%. Around 380,000 people in that age group had been vaccinated as of Sunday.

For the 12-15 age group, around 500,000 appointments (27% of the total) have been made, with jabs set to start Monday, Nov. 1.

After reporting no deaths from COVID-19 among teenagers in South Korea, news of the first post-vaccination death of a teen may lead some young people to push back their vaccinations or forgo them altogether.

The US, which began vaccinations for teenagers ahead of Korea, has yet to report any instances of death in which a causal relationship between vaccine and death has been established among roughly 8.9 million people aged 12 to 17 who have been vaccinated.

A report published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Aug. 6 showed that among a sample of roughly 8.9 million vaccinated Americans aged 12-17, there were 14 recorded deaths post-vaccination. Causes of death were reported as two suicides, two pulmonary embolisms, two intracranial hemorrhages, one case of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, and one case of mycobacterium avium complex infection; cause of death was not disclosed in six cases. No deaths from myocarditis or pericarditis were reported.

However, the incidence of myocarditis or pericarditis among American men in their teens was found to be higher than other age groups. According to materials released by the CDC on Aug. 30, a total of 2,574 cases of myocarditis or pericarditis were reported through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. It calculated the reporting rates of myopericarditis (per million doses administered) as 42.6 for men aged 12-15 who received a full Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination and 71.5 for men aged 16-17 who received a full dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Those rates are higher than for those aged 18 to 24 (37.1), 25 to 29 (11.1), 30 to 39 (6.8), and 40 to 49 (4.4).

Of the 860,000 16- to 18-year-olds — representing those who are in their final year of high school — who were vaccinated leading up to Sept. 12 in South Korea, there have been a total of 15 confirmed cases of myocarditis or pericarditis. Of these, five were treated in outpatient care, while 10 were admitted to hospitals for treatment. Korea’s vaccine response team has reported that all 15 have recovered and been discharged from the hospital.

Given this, it seems that the investigation into the teen’s death will focus on whether he suffered from myocarditis or pericarditis and, if so, whether these conditions contributed to his death following vaccination.

By Kim Ji-hoon, staff reporter

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