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 agreed that vaccination was an effective tool in tackling the pandemic, it came with the caveat that side-effects were rare but real. Indeed, the UK Medicines and Health Regulatory Authority (the MHRA) reported that some individuals have suffered adverse health impacts as a result of COVID-19 vaccination.
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.
When individuals suffer health impacts as a result of vaccination in the UK, there is support available through:
The Vaccine Damage Payment Act 1979 (VDPA). It was created by legislation implemented in 1979, intended to provide financial support to those who are injured as a result of vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination. 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. Various experts have openly questioned the effectiveness of the VDPA, indicating the scheme is not fit for purpose (The Lancet, The Times).
In the case of the Covid Vaccine, much needed financial support has been very slow in reaching the affected families - with the first payments being made in the week of 20th June 2022 only - thus defying the very purpose of the scheme. Those affected had to rely on savings, on the benefits system or the generosity of friends and family.
Through a series of action between 2021 and 2023, Hausfeld pushed for reform of the VDPA. We worked with affected families and other stakeholders to raise awareness around how this scheme is outdated, obscure and difficult to access and to seek urgent reform of the VDPA system.
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 worked 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.
Vaccine Injured Bereaved UK (VIBUK)
Some of the individuals we have supported set up a vaccine injured and bereaved support group, known as VIBUK, which provides support and resources to families in need and campaigned.
Hausfeld worked actively with the media to raise the profile of the issues at hand. A selection of some news channels and broadsheets:
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)
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 completed. Vaccines and Therapeutics, including issues relating to vaccine safety and the adequacy of the VDPA were addressed in Module 4 of the Inquiry.
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.
We were proud to work on the case and to support the work on a pro bono basis for the last 2.5 years. The claim continues to be handled by Sarah Moore who has moved to Leigh Day.