I have been wanting to address the issue of vaccine indemnity which has recently been raised by various quarters, virtually all of them with a biased anti-Big Pharma viewpoint.
Even doctors are questioning the indemnity clause, hinting that Big Pharma wants to wash their hands of any possible Adverse Effects Following Immunisations (AEFI), and governments are taking consent from patients to absolve themselves from any possible litigation.
Those who paint a horror story about the indemnity issue obviously have a short-lived memory on the history of vaccines. I will try to jolt your memories and then maybe you might be able to envision the fair and just concept of the Vaccine Court.
In the 1980s, parents in the US claimed that the triple-antigen Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus (DPT) vaccine caused severe AEFIs, which damaged the brains of their children. They alleged that their children who were previously well became brain-injured and developed cerebral palsy, mental retardation and epilepsy.
They sued the DPT vaccine manufacturers and were awarded large compensations by the jury. These legal suits virtually bankrupted most of the DPT vaccine manufacturers. All of them stopped making DPT vaccines except for one vaccine manufacturer.
It was later revealed that all the children actually suffered from a congenital disorder which made them brain injured and was not related to the vaccines at all.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) in the US was established in 1986 in order to restore the supplies of life-saving vaccines like DPT, which would threaten herd immunity against many fatal vaccine preventable diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, haemophilus influenza B, measles, mumps, and rubella.
It was legislated that all legal claims against the vaccine manufacturers can only be heard in the US Court of Federal Claims, sitting without a jury.
It was mandated that only scientifically proven injuries caused by vaccines would be compensated by the US Court of Federal Claims, better known as the Vaccine Court.
Justice was therefore served to both the vaccine manufacturers and the recipients of the vaccines who suffered genuine AEFIs causally related to the vaccines.
I would invite you to imagine this worst-case Covid-19 scenario. If the threat of a multi-million dollar suit is hanging over the heads of the vaccine manufacturers in their attempts to make a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, then I bet none of them would be interested in manufacturing a life-saving vaccine.
As of February 23, 110 million persons have been afflicted by the coronavirus with 2.5 million deaths.
A Covid-19 vaccine is the only other tool that is available, apart from masking, distancing and attention to hygiene to reduce the numbers of cases and deaths, to flatten the pandemic curve and to help the world emerge from this global humanitarian tragedy.
I think this Vaccine Court is a fair and just solution to the unceasing battle between the genuinely injured vaccine recipient and the vaccine manufacturer.
The NVICP is funded by a US$0.75 excise tax on all vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This would ensure that the vaccine fund is healthy and would be always well replenished to reimburse genuinely proven claims.
I have been proposing the concept of the Vaccine Court for Malaysia for some time now. With the Covid-19 pandemic and the availability of multiple vaccines, it is an opportune moment for the Ministry of Health and the government to seriously consider this option to allay the anxieties of potential vaccine recipients as well as vaccine manufacturers.
Justice delayed is justice denied.
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