We wrote last year on the potential for compensation claims which may arise for injuries or deaths resulting from Covid-19 vaccines. As anticipated, the first award of compensation has now been made under the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme.
Circumstances of Claim
In May 2021, Ms Vikki Spit called an ambulance for her partner Zion, after he began suffering "excruciating" headaches eight days following his Covid-19 vaccination. Zion was admitted to hospital however he sadly died six days later. It was confirmed on his death certificate that he died due to complications from the vaccination.
Ms Spit subsequently filed a claim under the Scheme and in June 2022 she was awarded £120,000. However, Ms Spit voiced her disappointment with both the time taken for the Scheme administrators to make the payment; but also the level of the award, in light of current inflation rates, and the anticipated loss of the earnings that her partner would have made prior to retirement.
The Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme
The Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979 provides a basis for a payment to be made, by the Government, to a person who is "severely disabled", as a result of vaccination against named diseases covered by the Act, such as meningitis B or measles. It mostly only applies to vaccinations carried out when an individual is under 18, but applies beyond this age if the vaccination is carried out "at the time of an outbreak within the United Kingdom or the Isle of Man of the disease against which the vaccination was given." Covid-19 was added to the list of diseases to which the Act applies in December 2020. The Act defines "severely disabled" as when a person suffers disablement of 60% or more, on the same basis as the person would be assessed if applying for benefits.
The Scheme currently offers a one-off, tax-free sum of up to £120,000, paid by the Government to assist those negatively impacted by the vaccine. The payment does not prevent a civil liability claim for compensation being made separately. However, as we mentioned in our previous blog, that may not be straightforward.
Implications for Other Covid Vaccine Claims
Advice from the World Health Organisation remains that "Safe and effective vaccines" are available to counter the effects of Covid-19, and that "Getting vaccinated is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against Covid-19". This position is echoed in the UK by the NHS, which also highlights that the vaccines in use in the UK have "met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness".
For those unusual cases where injury (or death) is caused by the vaccine, the Scheme provides a means to obtain financial support, without the need to prove negligence. News reports indicate other individuals, in addition to Ms Spit, have applied to the Scheme and may be receiving payments.
However, given the statutory award of £120,000 was last revised in July 2007, it remains to be seen whether this will be revisited to reflect the current economic climate.