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KDCA faces possible flurry of legal cases over vaccine side effects

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A member of a coalition of families of alleged COVID-19 vaccine side effect victims gets his head shaved during a rally held near Seoul Central District Court, May 6, calling on the government to provide better compensation to victims. Yonhap
A member of a coalition of families of alleged COVID-19 vaccine side effect victims gets his head shaved during a rally held near Seoul Central District Court, May 6, calling on the government to provide better compensation to victims. Yonhap

Gov't ordered to compensate for COVID-19 vaccine adverse effects

By Lee Hyo-jin

A recent court ruling ordering the government to compensate a man suffering from COVID-19 vaccine side effects has put the health authority in a difficult position, amid growing calls to recognize deaths and illnesses following vaccination more actively.

The Seoul Administrative Court ruled in favor of the man, who is in his 30s, in a lawsuit filed against the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) commissioner, Aug. 19.

The plaintiff, living in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, claimed that he suffered a fever the day after receiving an AstraZeneca dose in April 2021, and felt dizziness and numbness in his legs the next day. He was later diagnosed with an intracerebral hemorrhage, cerebral cavernous malformation and mononeuropathy.

He requested that the KDCA compensate him 3.6 million won for his medical fees, but was rejected. The agency viewed that there was no causal link between his illness and the vaccine.

However, the court said in its ruling, "It is not impossible to assume that there is a causal link between the illnesses and vaccination, considering that the plaintiff did not show such symptoms before receiving the vaccine, even though he had a preexisting condition."

The KDCA made an appeal, Sept. 5, citing the need to give additional explanations on the case based on medical data.

But the agency is likely to face more legal battles. There are currently eight other lawsuits over vaccine side effects in process, with over 87,000 cases of vaccine side effects reported to the KDCA.

Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Commissioner Peck Kyong-ran speaks during a briefing at the agency's headquarters in Osong, North Chungcheong Province, Sept. 4. Yonhap
Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Commissioner Peck Kyong-ran speaks during a briefing at the agency's headquarters in Osong, North Chungcheong Province, Sept. 4. Yonhap

Kim Doo-kyung, the representative of a coalition of families of vaccine side effect victims, welcomed the court ruling, but expressed fury over the KDCA's decision to appeal.

"We're so thankful that the court has recognized the need for the government to take responsibility, while the KDCA has turned a blind eye to our suffering. It is highly encouraging for people like me who have been fighting over a year to get compensated," he told The Korea Times, Thursday.

Kim's son, in his 20s, was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, causing paralysis in his legs, after receiving an AstraZeneca shot in early 2021. The government included the illness in its list of vaccine side effects in July, but it will still take several months for Kim's son to get his case officially recognized by the health authority, he explained.

"I can't believe the KDCA has decided to take the case to a higher court, denying its liability about failing to properly warn people about the potential risks of the vaccines," Kim said.

He went on to say that the government's earlier pledges to recognize vaccine side effects and make swift compensation to the victims more actively have turned out to be "empty promises."

"Nothing has changed. The government is still refusing to acknowledge that people have died or become seriously ill due to the vaccines that it had strongly recommended for them," Kim said.




Lee Hyo-jin lhj@koreatimes.co.kr


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