Thursday, 19 November 2020

Vaccination for Covid-19

It is reported that the NHS is putting together an "army of staff for mass coronavirus vaccinations" - The Guardian 19 November.

A post by Rosalind English and published by the UK Human Rights Blog considers the possibility that government might seek to make vaccination for Covid-19 compulsory.  The post comments that - ... Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out mandatory inoculation, telling talkRADIO the government would ‘have to watch what happens and… make judgments accordingly’. 

As the law currently stands, there is no such general power. A vaccination without consent would be prohibited

by the criminal law - e.g. assault - and would be trespass against the person (a tort). Legislation would therefore be necessary to bring in a legal requirement to require individuals to submit to vaccination and any such legislation will raise some profound questions relating to the human rights of those individuals. Against that is the point that extensive (and clinically effective) vaccination will be required if the pandemic is to be brought to an end.

The introduction of compulsory vaccination would also raise issues of whether any compensation should be paid in the event that vaccination leads to death or serious illness / injury. 

The Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979 (VDPA) enables the Secretary of State to make a statutory payment (currently £120,000) to a person who is, or was immediately before his death, severely disabled as a result of vaccination against any of the diseases to which the Act applies. Section 1 of the Act contains a list of diseases (e.g. diptheria, tetanus, whoopiong cough etc) and also empowers the Secretary of State to specify other diseases.

Section 2 sets out various Conditions of Entitlement and Section 3 sets out how claims are determined.  Under Section 4 there is an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.

As pointed out in an article published by solicitors Leigh Day,  experience shows that a payment under the 1979 Act does not meet the needs of people who suffer severe disablement as a result of taking a vaccine.  The Scheme requires the person harmed to prove that they have suffered ‘severe disablement’. However the VDPA does not make any provision for legal costs or support to be provided to establish the same, often leaving people not only injured but also without access to the scheme that was intended to help them.

Payments under the current Vaccine Damages Scheme are derisory and totally inadequate for meeting the complex long term medical and financial needs of individuals who may suffer the, as yet unknown but potentially life changing, side-effects of" [a Covid-19 vaccine]. "The Scheme as it stands is already well known to be inadequate for those who have suffered previous adverse reactions."

The Leigh Day article also points out that the government is taking steps to give legal protection to manufacturers of vaccines. Proposed amendments to Human Medicines Regulations will give assuarnces to such manufacturers that they will not be exposed to civil liability "unless there are ‘serious breaches’ which would allow immunity to be removed. What a ‘serious breach’ is, is undefined except that it is to be judged objectively!"

"Steps to extend immunity to manufacturers and suppliers need to be counterbalanced by measures to protect the interests of individuals who might suffer harm as a result of the vaccine."

"After all, the manufacturers and suppliers do make significant profits, the cost of them making a profit should not be at the expense of an injured person."

Government consultation on changes to Human Medicines Regulations

The Human Medicines Regulations 2012 - SI 2012/1916. 

Vaccine Knowledge Project - How are vaccines tested, licensed and monitored? 

Medicines and Health Care products Regulatory Agency

19 November 2020 

Addendum 4 December 2020:

The government has announced that vaccination for Covid will come within the scope of the Vaccine Damage Payments Act - 

"In advance of a rollout of an authorised COVID-19 vaccine and in line with other immunisation programmes, the government is taking the precautionary step to ensure that, in the very rare possibility where someone is severely disabled as a result of taking a COVID-19 vaccine, they can access financial assistance through the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme (VDPS)."

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