Flu vaccine unlikely cause of man's disorder and coma: official

10/26/2020 05:07 PM
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CNA file photo for illustrative purpose only.
CNA file photo for illustrative purpose only.

Taipei, Oct. 26 (CNA) A top Centers for Disease Control (CDC) official said Monday that "most studies" would suggest the flu vaccine is not the reason a Taiwanese man who received it has since been diagnosed with a neurological disorder and briefly fell into a coma.

The man, who is 51 years old and lives in the central city of Taichung, received a flu vaccine produced by the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi on Oct. 10, according to the city government's Health Bureau.

In the days after, the man felt fine and even went hiking with his family, Tang Tzao-ing (湯澡瑛), head of the bureau's disease control division, told CNA.

However, on Oct. 20 the man began to experience dizziness, nausea and muscle weakness, and went to the hospital. He started to have difficulty breathing a day later and was admitted to an intensive care unit, Tang said.

The man has since been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare disorder with no known cause in which the immune system mistakenly attacks one's nerves. He also fell into a coma from which he has since recovered, and is still undergoing treatment in the ICU, according to Tang.

The city government will help the man and his family apply to the CDC's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, where a panel of experts determine whether compensation should be paid, Tang said.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said that "most studies" would suggest that GBS is not linked to flu vaccines.

A small number of studies, however, have noted "an extremely small connection" between the disorder and flu vaccines or other types of infection, Chuang said.

Chuang was also asked about recent reports that 48 people in South Korea have died after receiving the flu vaccine, resulting in Singapore halting the administration of flu vaccines produced by South Korean company SK Bioscience and French company Sanofi.

In the case of South Korea, Chuang said the country's health officials have determined that the deaths are not directly related to the vaccine, and have not yet halted their vaccination program.

As for the situation in Singapore, he said that the CDC is still seeking relevant information from the officials there.

Chuang did not say whether Taiwan would follow Singapore's lead and halt the administering of any brand of flu vaccine.

Also on Monday, Sanofi released a press statement saying that the company's flu vaccines imported by Taiwan have been subjected to strict quality checks and are of a different batch to that being used in South Korea.

Of the 4 million people who have received the flu vaccine in Taiwan this year as of Oct. 23, 12 have reported serious side affects and only one of those received the Sanofi-made vaccine, the company said.

It has not been determined whether the patient's side effects were linked to the vaccine, the company added.

(By Chen Wei-ting and Chiang Yi-ching)

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