Two persons are reported to have died after taking the A/H1N1 vaccination as the Chinese mainland prepares to vaccinate 65 million people, or 5 percent of its population, by the end of the year, health officials said on Friday.
A secondary school teacher in Hunan province died while playing basketball 8 hours after taking the jab, the provincial health department said on Friday afternoon.
But his death, according to preliminary findings, was not linked to the vaccine and it would not affect the ongoing H1N1 vaccination program, said Deng Haihua, spokesman for the Ministry of Health.
Deng did not give the details of the other victim. According to regulations, the local health authority where such deaths occur should be the one to announce it, he said.
So far, 15 people have suffered severe side effects including anaphylactic shocks (sudden drop in blood pressure or difficulty in breathing) after taking the jab, said Liu Dawei, a vaccination expert with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
These people will get free treatment and cash compensation," Liu said.
Till Thursday, more than 12 million people had been vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus, with 1,235 complaining of side effects, the Ministry of Health said. Most of the reactions, however, have been mild and temporary.
Preliminary results of the Hunan victim's autopsy show he could have died after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest, which experts say kills more than 1,700 people in the country each day.
"The Hunan teacher's death is a coincidental medical incident," Liu said.
The exact cause of his death can be known only after all his medical records, including the final autopsy report, are studied, Deng said. But the batch of vaccines from which he got the jab has been withdrawn as a precautionary measure.
The autopsy on the other victim was likely to be performed on Friday night, Deng said.
No vaccine is risk-free, but the influenza vaccine is among the safest, said Vivian Tan, press officer of the World Health Organization's Beijing office.
"We have observed minor side effects like sore arm, red rashes, low fever and headache among the people who have taken the jab. Severe side effects are very uncommon. But it's important to monitor the situation closely," Tan said.