The Department of Health has failed to establish a separate unit to deal with a vaccine damage compensation scheme, three years after the Minister received a report on the current system for managing claims and four years after the Health Research Board (HRB) carried out an evidence review on such schemes in other jurisdictions, Denis Naughten TD has revealed.
Denis Naughten recently questioned the Minister for Health on plans to introduce a no-fault vaccination compensation scheme for severe adverse reactions to State-promoted vaccination programmes.
While Minister Donnelly confirmed Government had recently approved the establishment of an Interdepartmental Working Group to examine the rising cost of health-related claims, additional information provided to Denis Naughten outlined that given the importance of ensuring the vaccine damage compensation scheme is fit for purpose, and the potential risks to the Department and the Exchequer, it was recommended to the Secretary General and Minister that a separate unit be established within the Department of Health to undertake this work.
However it has now been confirmed to Deputy Naughten that the establishment and resourcing of this unit remains outstanding.
Commenting on this, Denis Naughten said: “While the perception is being given that the Minister and the Department are prepared to take vaccination damage compensation schemes out of the courts, a position held by Government for two decades, the reality is this is just lip service and clearly nothing is happening behind the scenes other than kicking the can down the road.
“How many children have to be dragged through the courts to get the expert support that they need as a result of being damaged by a State supported vaccination programme, before we will see any action?
“I’m aware of children damage by vaccines over 50 years ago who are still waiting for such a scheme, and that is just not good enough. This is despite the then Minister for Health, in the early 1980s, offering a once off payment of £10,000 to 16 families of children who were on the ‘balance of probabilities’ damaged by the State vaccination programme.”
In June 2018, the Government agreed to the establishment of an expert group to review the management of clinical negligence claims, chaired by Mr. Justice Charles Meenan.
Denis Naughten commented: “The group’s final report was submitted to both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Justice in January 2020 and published in December of that year. One of the report’s recommendations was that a vaccine compensation scheme be established as a matter of urgency. In addition, the Department of Health also requested that the Health Research Board (HRB) carry out a further review of the vaccine injury redress programmes in other jurisdictions and this was completed for the second time in March 2019.
“The Department is now saying that the issue of a vaccine damage compensation scheme did not progress because of the pandemic, yet it appears resources have not yet even been put in place to establish a separate unit for this purpose, despite the recommendation being made to both the Minister for Health and the Secretary General of the Department.”
Speaking in the Dáil, Denis Naughten said: “Commitments were given in the past two programmes for Government to introduce a no-fault vaccine compensation scheme. This was again promised by the former Taoiseach Deputy Micheal Martin in advance of the introduction of the Covid vaccination programme. My engagement on this issue with various Ministers for Health has been ongoing for the past 250 months – or more than two decades.
“I am deeply disappointed… scoping reports were done by the former Minister for Health, Deputy Micheál Martin, who gave a commitment when he was Minister to deliver on this. Every other Minister for Health since then has given this commitment. This scheme has been introduced in 25 countries.
“In 2020, the recommendation was that a vaccine injury scheme should be introduced as a matter of urgency. The Minister knows that there is a culture of fighting claims within the State Claims Agency and the health profession. There are parents who have been advocating on behalf of disabled children for more than 50 years and the doors have been slammed in their faces by the health profession telling them it is all in their heads. It is not good enough that decades later we are still talking about another report, another review and no action.”
Responding to Deputy Naughten, Minister Donnelly said: “My understanding is that it was intended in early 2020 to do exactly what the Deputy is calling for – to pull this group together, examine the international evidence and introduce something here for exactly the reasons outlined by him. Then Covid happened and the public health experts and doctors, the Chief Medical Officer, the deputy Chief Medical Officer, the bioethicists and all the people we would normally have involved in this were for obvious reasons pulled almost exclusively into the Covid response. Let us all hope that Covid is in the rear-view mirror and now is the time we can pull this group together. “
Dail debate last week
For Priority Answer on : 20/04/2023
Question Number(s): 4 Question Reference(s): 16903/23
Asked by: Denis Naughten T.D.
To ask the Minister for Health the status of plans to introduce a no-fault vaccination compensation scheme for severe adverse reactions to State-promoted vaccination programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
(See attached file: 20230419 Priority Oral PQ 16903_Supplementary Briefing_Updated.docx)
My Department and the HSE work continuously to monitor and improve patient safety, reduce incidents of harm and to minimise risk.
Government recently approved the establishment of an Interdepartmental Working Group to examine the rising cost of health-related claims and consider mechanisms to reduce costs. The Group will examine the rising cost of clinical negligence claims in the health system, with a particular focus on high value claims, and identify measures that could be put in place to reduce future costs. The Group is chaired independently by an expert healthcare professional, Dr Rhona Mahony, and is comprised of membership from across key Government Departments and Agencies.
With respect to vaccination, patients concerned with a possible side-effect or adverse reaction following a vaccination should, in the first instance, consult with their medical practitioner who can refer them as necessary to appropriate services following clinical assessment.
It should also be noted that vaccines can only be approved and used if they comply with all the requirements of quality, safety and efficacy set out in relevant EU pharmaceutical legislation. Any authorised vaccine will be subject to ongoing monitoring in Ireland by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA). The latest safety updates from the HPRA regarding COVID-19 vaccinations are available on the HPRA’s website.
Regarding a vaccine damage compensation scheme, during the pandemic, all available Department of Health resources were devoted to the Public Health response. This has meant that work in this area could not be progressed. Further scoping work is required to inform decision-making in this area. This remains under consideration by my Department.