Government to establish vaccination injury compensation scheme

HSE Vaccine

18 August 2021

The Government says work is under way to establish a compensation scheme for anyone who suffers injury arising from one of the State’s vaccination programmes.

However Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has ruled out setting up a specific scheme in response to any claims that might arise from the Covid-19 jab.

A Government source said that while there was no final timescale available yet for the establishment of the general vaccine damages scheme, it was being progressed as a matter of priority.

A December 2020 report on the handling of medical negligence claims, produced by an expert group chaired by Mr Justice Charles Meenan, recommended the introduction of an ex-gratia scheme for people who suffered injury arising from vaccination programmes “as a matter of urgency”.

In parliamentary correspondence to the Independent TD Catherine Connolly, Mr Donnelly said that Mr Justice Meenan’s report would be taken together alongside an evidence review carried out by the Health Research Board (HRB) on the vaccine injury redress programme in other jurisdictions. 

“The expert group’s report, in addition to the HRB’s evidence review, and consultation with other Departments and relevant State agencies will inform the development of proposals regarding the establishment of a compensation scheme, including the need for primary legislation, and work to advance policy development in this regard is under way in the Department.”

Mr Donnelly added there were no plans at present “for the introduction in Ireland of a Covid-19 specific vaccine compensation scheme”.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said that “work to advance policy development” on the general damages scheme was “underway.”

‘No fall back’

It comes as a senior medical negligence solicitor said it was an “absolute scandal” that the State had not put in place a no-fault vaccine injury compensation scheme. Michael Boylan, whose firm is representing 80 clients who have taken cases against the State arising from the 2009/2010 swine flu vaccination programme, said there was “no point in denying” that in rare cases vaccines have negative side effects.

Mr Boylan believes such a scheme would inspire confidence in people taking vaccines, something which has taken on more importance during the Covid vaccination campaign. “It would encourage people to do it, and inspire more confidence in taking a vaccine, if you knew the State was going to look after you, and not going to wash its hands of you, if you are injured,” Mr Boylan said. 

All vaccines involved a possibility that, on rare occasions, they cause side effects, he said, and it was “an absolute scandal” this was not acknowledged.

“They are asking the citizens to roll up the sleeve and take one for the green jersey, but if you end up with permanent damage, there is no fall back compensation,” he said.

Approximately 25 jurisdictions, 16 of them in Europe, have no-fault vaccination injury compensation schemes, according to an Oireachtas research paper produced earlier this year. 

The State’s medicines regulator, the Health Products Regulatory Authority, had received 13,529 reports of suspected side-effects of Covid-19 vaccines by August 3rd out of 3.14 million doses administered to that date.

Data from the US shows the risk of myocarditis (heart-related inflammation) after receiving an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) is 1 in 16,000 for boys aged 12 to 17 years.

Most cases resolve with rest and some treatment, a HSE briefing heard on Thursday. The risk of severe Covid-19 illness for children is low, with a hospitalisation rate in Ireland for those with no underlying conditions of less than 1 in 100,000, the HSE said.

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