Editorial: Covid vaccine, justice, rights and compensation for damage. What is the situation in your country?

'If we allow governments to take away our citizen rights now, how can we be sure they will ever restore them?'

When we accept a Covid vaccine we are likely to be deprived of some of our rights for compensation if there is damage in the long term to ourselves or a loved one. This becomes an increasingly relevant question as governments are considering inoculating children.

First of all, are there dangers? This, about vaccines in general, comes from USA:

‘Public should be told that vaccines may have long term adverse effects

‘We believe that the public should be fully informed that vaccines, though effective in preventing infections, may have long term adverse effects. An educated public will probably increasingly demand proper safety studies before widespread immunisation. We believe that the outcome of this decision will be the development of safer vaccine technology.’ BMJ 1999.


And then, as reported by World Economic Forum, ‘Unexpected side-effects are rare, but the speed at which coronavirus vaccines are being produced raises the risks.’


This speed of production causes me concern. My government and major news outlets tell me every day the Covid vaccines are safe, but this appears to me much more as propaganda and media hype than as down-to-earth education. Time will tell.

However, the UK government certainly anticipates some adverse drug reactions and has commissioned an AI tool to ‘process the expected high volume of Covid-19 vaccine adverse drug reaction (ADRs) and ensure that no details . . . are missed’. This comes from HealthcareITNews.

I hope this process stays in place for many years to pick up long-term ill-effects.

Citizen’s rights to sue when there is damage from a Covid vaccine are curtailed. This comes from CNBC in USA:
You can’t sue Pfizer or Moderna if you have severe Covid vaccine side effects. The government likely won’t compensate you for damages either.

If you experience severe side effects after getting a Covid vaccine, lawyers tell CNBC there is basically no one to blame in a U.S. court of law. The federal government has granted companies like Pfizer and Moderna immunity from liability if something unintentionally goes wrong with their vaccines. It is very rare for a blanket immunity law to be passed,” said Rogge Dunn, a Dallas labor and employment attorney. “Pharmaceutical companies typically aren’t offered much liability protection under the law.” You also can’t sue the Food and Drug Administration for authorizing a vaccine for emergency use, nor can you hold your employer accountable if they mandate inoculation as a condition of employment....

In February, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar invoked the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act. The 2005 law empowers the HHS secretary to provide legal protection to companies making or distributing critical medical supplies, such as vaccines and treatments, unless there’s “willful misconduct” by the company. The protection lasts until 2024. That means that for the next four years, these companies “cannot be sued for money damages in court” over injuries related to the administration or use of products to treat or protect against Covid. 

Some news about the situation in Europe comes from World Economic Forum:

COVID-19: AstraZeneca gets partial immunity in low-cost EU vaccine deal

        • Agreements are being made surrounding the liability on pharmaceutical companies following any side-effects from a COVID-19 vaccine.
        • Unexpected side-effects are rare, but the speed at which coronavirus vaccines are being produced raises the risks.
        • Governments are bringing in liability waivers, to support vaccine candidates that are focused on the fair distribution, as opposed to turning a profit.

European governments will pay claims above an agreed limit against AstraZeneca over side-effects from its potential COVID-19 vaccine, under different terms to a deal struck with Sanofi, an EU official told Reuters. ...

The deals reflect different strategies by two of the world’s top drugmakers for protecting themselves as a debate rages about liabilities for vaccines aimed at ending the pandemic.


Separate from the issue of not being able to sue a pharmaceutical company, in the UK:

Government to add COVID-19 to Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme: The government is taking this precautionary step in advance of a rollout of an authorised COVID-19 vaccine and in line with other immunisation programmes. Is this the case in your country? Go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-add-covid-19-to-vaccine-damage-payments-scheme


There is no way of knowing with these quickly-produced Covid vaccines what cases of damage will come to light in years to come. Will it be none, a few, very many? But it does seem that getting justice and compensation will be very difficult or impossible. Part of the process of deciding whether to accept a Covid vaccine is to educate ourselves about this new vaccination and part of that process is to learn what justice will be available to us if there is damage - what rights we will have to claim compensation.

Justice and education are basic elements of democracy. We do not have to look very far to see countries where hard-won democracy is hanging on a thread or already replaced by cruel dictatorships. Are we being asked to forego justice and education as we respond to this pandemic? If we allow governments to take away our citizen rights now, how can we be sure they will ever restore them?


Peter Limbrick, March 2021. Comments welcome.

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