Compensation scheme for State vaccine system urged

Tue, Aug 7, 2012, 01:00

Minister for Health urged to act on steering group recommendation, writes GORDON DEEGAN

THE MINISTER for Health, James Reilly, has been urged to put in place a no-fault compensation payment scheme for children affected by serious adverse reactions under State vaccine programmes.

Independent TD Denis Naughten said it was almost three years since the Vaccine Damage Steering Group, established by the Department of Health, recommended to Government that a scheme be put in place.

The steering group, which included representatives from the department, the Health Service Executive, the Irish Medicines Board and the State Claims Agency, recommended that payments should range from €15,000 for minor damage caused by vaccines to €200,000 for severe damage.

The report concluded that there was an onus on the State to look sympathetically at the very rare cases in which children suffer serious adverse reactions because of their participation in State vaccine schemes.

The group recommended that payment should not be regarded as compensation but rather a recognition that, in limited cases, an adverse event could take place following immunisation and, “on the balance of probability”, damage occurred as a result.

“The report is being allowed to gather dust,” said Deputy Naughten.

In response to a recent Dáil question from the deputy on the issue, Dr Reilly said his department was currently examining the group’s recommendations.

“However, this issue is complex and needs to be considered in the wider context of how best to address the long-term health and social needs of people who may have experienced adverse outcomes from other health services,” said Dr Reilly.

Deputy Naughten said more than 100 families were seeking compensation for adverse reactions that date as far back as the 1960s. “Ireland is one of the few countries where a no-fault compensation scheme is not in place,” he said.

Deputy Naughten, who said his three children had been vaccinated, said he was not opposed to vaccination but it was wrong not to acknowledge that there was a risk, “though the risk of not being vaccinated is far greater”.

Rita Duff, spokeswoman for Irish Vaccine Injury Support, which represents 120 families, said 80 per cent of the cases in which children suffered serious adverse reactions to vaccines date to the 1970s.

Ms Duff said successive governments, “despite being requested to deal with this issue, have failed to even recognise our children’s very existence, leaving us as parents isolated and trying to cope with the catastrophic injuries and, in some cases, death caused by vaccines promoted by the State”.

She said the support group was prepared to work with Dr Reilly and any State agency to set up an agreed compensation scheme within a certain timeframe.