COVID-19 vaccine injury & bereavement
Millions of people across the UK received multiple doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, a huge success in terms of the speed with which a significant proportion of the UK population has been fully vaccinated.
Whilst the medical world universally agrees that vaccination is an effective tool in tackling the pandemic, it comes with the caveat that side-effects are rare but real. Indeed, the UK Medicines and Health Regulatory Authority (the MHRA) has reported that some individuals have suffered adverse health impacts as a result of COVID-19 vaccination.
VITT and CVST
Adverse health impacts reported include blood clots. Tragically, in some cases the effects have been fatal: where individuals have developed Vaccine Induced Immune Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia (VITT), for example.
How are those affected currently supported?
When individuals suffer health impacts as a result of vaccination in the UK – what support is available to them?
The Vaccine Damage Payment Act 1979 (VDPA)
Created by legislation implemented in 1979, the VDPA is intended to provide financial support to those who are injured as a result of vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination. However, the support provided is limited to a single, lump-sum payment of £120,000 – an amount which has not been updated in line with inflation since 2007 - and compares poorly with compensation paid out in other personal injury cases. Moreover, the payment is only granted to those who can prove it is more likely than not that their injury was caused by the vaccine and applicants must also demonstrate that they have been at least ‘60% disabled’ according to a framework designed for industrial injuries.
As reported in the media, various experts have openly questioned the effectiveness of the VDPA, indicating the scheme is not fit for purpose.
Much needed financial support has been very slow in reaching the affected families – with only the first payments being made in the week of 20th June 2022 - and thus defying the very purpose of the scheme. Those affected have had to rely on savings, on the benefits system or the generosity of friends and family.
Reform of the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme 1979
The support currently available for those injured or bereaved through vaccination in the UK is inadequate and difficult to access.
Hausfeld is driving forward the national conversation on how best to support the COVID-19 vaccination program whilst ensuring that injured individuals and their families are given access to appropriate financial and informational support.
We are pushing for reform of the VDPA. We have been working with affected families and other stakeholders to raise awareness around how this scheme is outdated, obscure and difficult to access and to seek urgent reform of the VDPA system.
Action taken by Hausfeld so far
The campaign for VDPA reform
We brought together the affected families, so they could share their experiences with others in a similar situation and offer/receive mutual mental support while also creating awareness around some of the issues described above.
We submitted a letter, written jointly with many of the families we represent, to Members of Parliament and other influential public figures, setting out what they have suffered and the challenges they face. The letter argued for proper support via reform of the VDPS system and the provision of comprehensive information to those affected by these issues.
We work with Lord Philip Hunt, in the House of Lords, and Sir Christopher Chope, in the House of Commons to encourage the Government to engage in reform of the VDPA. Health and Care Bill - Hansard - UK Parliament
We were successful in campaigning for the inclusion of vaccine injury and the adequacy of the VDPS within the final Terms of Reference of the COVID-19 Public Inquiry. The terms of reference were confirmed by the Prime Minister on 28th June 2022 and the Inquiry's work is now underway. Vaccines and Therapeutics, including issues relating to vaccine safety and the adequacy of the VDPA will now be addressed in Module 4 of the Inquiry.
Vaccine Injured Bereaved UK (VIBUK)
Some of the individuals we have been supporting have now set up a vaccine injured and bereaved support group, known as VIBUK, which provides support and resources to families in need. After one year of solid campaigning by the VIBUK - with our help pro bono - the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) finally agreed in July 2023 to change the law to ensure that those who receive a payment under the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme (VDPS) as a result of a bereavement following the COVID19 Vaccine, will have that payment disregarded for the purposes of means-tested benefits such as Universal Credit. This small change in the law, will have a big impact on those who would have been rendered financially vulnerable by the fact of receiving a VDPA payment.
A Letter of Claim was sent to AstraZeneca on 30 November 2022, on behalf of a group of individuals who have suffered serious injury or bereavement as a result of VITT. A formal Letter of Response was received in May 2023. Proceedings were issued and served on the Defendant in August 2023. Inter-partes correspondence continues.
The claim is brought on the basis of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and argues that the AstraZeneca vaccine was “defective” in that it was not as safe as individuals were entitled to expect. VITT is now established as causatively linked with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Many of the Claimants within the Hausfeld Group have now received ex gratia one off payments via the VDPA on the basis that the AstraZeneca vaccine caused them to suffer serious injury or bereavement. Those whom receive VDPA payments, under the current statute, can expect to receive a single payment of £120,000. Receiving a VDPA payment does not prevent individuals from bringing legal action to secure additional compensation in order to pay for their care needs or to provide financial security for families devastated by serious injury or bereavement resulting from vaccination.
Hausfeld works actively with the media to raise the profile of the issues. Some of the news channels and broadsheets have already reported on these crucial issues:
BBC - Widower calls for easier access to vaccine damages payment
BBC - The story of Dr Stephen Wright
Mail Online - The story of Lisa Shaw
Mail Online - How several victims have been affected
Sky News: report one, report two
The Independent (subscription only)
The Telegraph (April 2023 - subscription only)
Have you been affected?
If you have suffered injury or bereavement as a consequence of Vaccine Induced Thrombocytic Thrombocytopenia (VITT) or CVST, in particular, and would like to be added to our mailing list concerning potential legal action, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Other action you can take:
- Yellow Card: If you or someone close to you has suffered an adverse effect following vaccination then it is vital that you register details via the YellowCard system. Only by reporting complications can we enable our regulator the Medicine Healthcare Regulatory Agency to do its job properly.
- Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme Application Form: A copy of the current form and further information about the scheme.
- COVID-19 adverse event reports are collated by the MHRA and updates are published here.
- Hausfeld Perspectives: Vaccine safety: thinking beyond the headlines, COVID-19 and the challenge of herd immunity: what role can the law play?, Is it time for a bespoke COVID-19 compensation scheme?
COVID 19 Vaccine Injury and Bereavement - News:
COVID19 Inquiry: “The treatment of the vaccine injured in this country has historically been a source of shame”
Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme: small change in law with big impact for the vaccine injured and bereaved
Claimant group brings legal claim against AstraZeneca under Consumer Protection Act 1987
COVID-19 Public Inquiry update: recommendation to include impact of vaccines