No-fault indemnity should apply to all vaccines: RACGP

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

10/08/2021 3:42:23 PM

The call comes more than six weeks after the Prime Minister announced the scheme, for which details are still yet to emerge.

A woman being vaccinated.
A no-fault vaccine injury compensation scheme would protect the broader community, while also enhancing confidence in the vaccination program, the RACGP argues.

The RACGP has stated the development and implementation of a no-fault vaccine injury compensation scheme (VICS) should extend to all vaccines listed on the National Immunisation schedule, not just those approved for COVID-19.
In its submission, published on 10 August, the college says the increased risk of developing thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) following the AstraZeneca vaccine has ‘fuelled GP and community concerns’, and that a no-fault VICS could promote renewed confidence in the national COVID vaccine rollout.
It argues that the scheme’s potential benefits extend to: 

  • protecting the broader community
  • ensuring fair compensation for vaccine injury
  • enhancing confidence in vaccinations
  • increasing uptake of vaccination programs.
According to the position statement, a VICS would compensate people who develop a ‘vaccine injury following administration of properly manufactured vaccines’.
Meanwhile, a no-fault policy is classed as an ‘insurance policy or compensation plan that is valid regardless of whether the claimant was at fault’.
The RACGP notes that while immunisation is ‘a safe and effective way to prevent serious disease’, and that most vaccine reactions ‘are minor and do not result in long-term injury’, that the absence of a VICS means the small number of people who do experience a vaccine injury ‘will not receive compensation for their injury through a national compensation scheme’.
‘At a population level, the very small risk of individual vaccine injury is outweighed by the significant and ongoing benefits of widespread population immunisation,’ the statement reads.
‘However, this can occasionally mean that a significant burden, ie vaccine injury, is placed on an individual for the protective benefit that vaccines provide to the rest of the Australian population.’
It was in 2015 that the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs recommended that the Australian Government investigate the merits of a national vaccine compensation scheme, as part of its inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab, No Pay) Bill 2015.
‘The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent rollout of the national COVID-19 vaccination program has reignited calls for a no-fault VICS in Australia,’ the statement reads.
The RACGP supports the introduction of a VICS, on the basis that:
  • immunisation significantly benefits the population, as well as the individual
  • vaccinations carry a very small risk of serious adverse reaction
  • Government should compensate individuals who experience a severe adverse reaction in the interest of protecting the broader community, enhancing confidence in vaccinations, and increasing uptake of vaccination programs.
The college notes that various VICSs have become commonplace in many countries around the world, including New Zealand, the UK, the US, several European countries and Japan, among others.
Drawing on their experience, to successfully implement a VICS, the RACGP states that consideration would need to be given to eligibility criteria, standard of proof and compensation ‘in alignment with community expectations’.
The college notes that the eligibility criteria for VICS varies significantly across different countries.
Notably, most VICS include vaccine injuries that result from vaccines that are registered in the country and are recommended by authorities for routine use in children, adults [eg influenza vaccines], pregnant women and for special indications,’ the statement reads.
‘Most countries have a time limit on eligibility, either from the date of vaccination or the initial appearance of symptoms of the vaccine injuries.’
All VICS would also require a ‘standard of proof’ that shows that there is a ‘causal association between the injury and the vaccination’, which often utilises the ‘balance of probabilities’ approach.
‘This approach considers if it is “more likely than not” that the injury was caused by the vaccine, considering factors such as the medical evidence, timing of the injury, the nature of the vaccine and other supporting information,’ the statement reads.
Compensation can be provided for medical costs, disability pensions, coverage for non-economic loss and death benefits.
‘In most jurisdictions, individuals have the right to seek damages either through a VICS or civil litigation but not both simultaneously.’
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Dr John Wilfred Carter   11/08/2021 7:59:37 AM

The College may need to be a little careful here. My understanding is that Japan bought in a no fault childhood immunisation system several decades ago which resulted in excessive claims for autism. This resulted in the childhood schedule being pushed back to over 12 months of age.