Vaccine injury payouts urged


INDIVIDUALS WHO suffer rare adverse reactions to vaccines delivered as part of all national immunisation programmes should be entitled to ex-gratia payments ranging from €15,000 to €200,000, according to a report.

The report from the Vaccine Damage Steering Group, established by the Department of Health in 2007, which was published yesterday, says these payments should not be regarded as compensation but recognition that, in limited cases, an adverse event could take place following immunisation and that, on the balance of probability, damage occurred as a result.

The Department of Health has not said yet if it will implement the findings.

The report says an adverse event, to qualify for payment, would have to have lasted more than six months, resulted in a hospital stay and surgery or in death.

The report recommends that those who suffer minor damage be entitled to €15,000, those suffering moderate damage €75,000 and in cases of severe damage €200,000.

The scheme, the report notes, should be retrospective and administered by the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

The steering group included representatives of the Department of Health, the HSE, the Irish Medicines Board and the State Claims Agency. They recommend that "it should be a condition of acceptance of an award that any claims against the State for alleged vaccine damage are waived".

Damage caused by any vaccine given as part of the childhood or school immunisation programmes would be included in the scheme.

In the UK, where a similar system exists, there were initially a high number of applications, but there are now about 100 to 120 applications per year for payouts, of which about five are successful.

There are three cases alleging vaccine damage with the State Claims Agency and two with the Irish Public Bodies insurance company.

The report states that where the State actively encourages all parents to participate in a national immunisation programme, there is an onus on the State to look sympathetically at the rare number of cases where children suffer serious adverse reactions.

"The group agreed that the State should acknowledge that notwithstanding the substantial and proven benefits of vaccination programmes, individuals react differently to vaccines and there is no way to predict with certainty the reaction of a specific individual to a particular vaccine.

"It is, therefore, right to acknowledge that and make arrangements for a payment scheme in the small number of cases who have been adversely affected," it added.

It also stresses that immunisation has saved more lives than any other public health intervention, apart from providing clean water.

One submission to the steering group from the faculty of paediatrics at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland said the group might need to consider compensation for children who contracted TB in Cork in 2007 when immunisations were not offered by the HSE.