COVID-19 vaccine injury
Millions of people across the UK have received at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The scheme has rightly been hailed as 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. Adverse health impacts reported include blood clots and a serious neurological condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Tragically, in some cases the effects have been fatal where individuals have developed Vaccine Induced Thrombocytic Thrombocytopenia (VITT), for example.
The Government and regulatory agencies in the UK are closely monitoring the health impacts of COVID-19 vaccinations. For example, in recent weeks restrictions have been introduced on younger age groups for whom the AstraZeneca vaccine is suitable. The number of people suffering adverse health impacts is very small, particularly in the context of the very large numbers of people in the UK who have safely accessed the vaccines.
In the unlikely event that individuals do suffer health impacts as a result of vaccination in the UK – what support is available to them?
How are those affected currently supported?
The Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme 1979
Created by legislation implemented in 1979, the VDPS 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 - proving a causal link between the harm suffered and the vaccination is a difficult task where the science and medical understanding is evolving on an almost daily basis - and that they have been at least ‘60% disabled’ according to a framework designed for industrial injuries.
Logistically, the scheme is difficult to access in its current format: there is no online application system, meaning that a paper form must be submitted by post. This causes delay and can be particularly difficult for unsupported individuals too unwell to complete and post a handwritten application form. Perhaps most damningly, the current application form is not designed to handle claims where someone has died causing particular distress to grieving families attempting to make a claim on behalf of their deceased loved one.
Furthermore, Hausfeld is not aware of any application related to COVID-19 having yet received a decision. While we recognise the difficult issues relating to the science and medical understanding raised by the VDPS framework, we feel sustained delay is unacceptable. Much needed financial support is not reaching the affected families and thus defying the very purpose of the scheme. In the absence of significant savings, the only option is to rely on the benefits system or the generosity of friends and family.
As reported in the media, various experts have openly questioned the effectiveness of the VDPS, indicating the scheme is not fit for purpose.
Reform of the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme 1979
Through conversations with individuals and families of those injured through vaccination, we have come to understand that the support currently being made available in the event of vaccine injury in the UK is inadequate and difficult to access.
Hausfeld is committed to driving forward the national conversation on how best to support the continued roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination program whilst ensuring that injured individuals and their families are given access to appropriate financial and informational support.
Our current focus is on pushing for reform of the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme (VDPS). We are working with the 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 VDPS system. Our hope is that the families we represent will be able to access the support they urgently need, and that others who may sadly need to rely on the scheme in future, will encounter a system that is comprehensive and fit for purpose.
Hausfeld takes action
We are bringing together the affected families, so they can 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 are also actively considering legal options that might provide further redress to those who have suffered side effects from COVID-19 vaccination.
We are in the early stages of our work. We have 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 argues for proper support via reform of the VDPS system and the provision of comprehensive information to those affected by these issues who have, too often, had to rely on their own online research.
We are also actively working with the media to raise the profile of the issues. Some of the news channels and broadsheets have already reported on these crucial issues:
Sky News: report one, report two
The Independent (subscription only)
The Telegraph (subscription only)
Covid: Widower calls for easier access to vaccine damages payment - an interview with Sarah Moore, BBC News
Have you been affected?
If you believe you have, or someone close to you has, suffered significant injury as a result of the COVID-19 vaccine, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the enquiry form below. One of our team will be in touch. We will provide updates as the campaign progresses.
- 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.
- Petition calling for reform of the VDPS: One of the families with whom we are working has set up a You.Gov petition which seeks to get the issue of reform of the VDPS on the agenda for debate within Parliament. If you would like to consider signing the petition a link is available 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?