The Federal Government has established a COVID-19 vaccine claims scheme to reimburse those who sustain moderate to significant impact following an adverse reaction to a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved COVID-19 vaccines (including but not limited to Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Novavax).
The scheme aims to deliver a streamlined, non-litigated process to provide compensation to eligible persons for injuries caused by the administration of a TGA approved COVID-19 vaccine or by an adverse event found to be caused by a TGA approved COVID-19 vaccination. Adverse events include the recognised side effects of TGA approved COVID-19 vaccines as detailed in the approved Product Information, including thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine and myocarditis and pericarditis associated with the Pfizer vaccine.
The scheme will cover the costs of injuries valued above $5,000 to be assessed by a team of independent experts. Compensation will be paid on the basis of the recommendations of these experts.
For claims between $5,000 and $20,000, claimants are required to nominate that they are seeking less than $20,000 and have been hospitalised for at least one night. Claimants must provide relevant evidence of the following:
- the nature of the injury and medical documentation of its likely relationship to a TGA approved COVID-19 vaccination;
- hospitalisation due to injuries related to a TGA approved COVID-19 vaccination;
- medical costs; and
- lost income.
The evidentiary requirements for claims valued at $20,000 and greater, including death claims, are currently under development and are yet to be released.
At first glance, it appears the scheme will assist employers who intend to mandate the vaccination of their employees, allowing for compensation to be provided outside of their insurance policies.
However, there remains a risk that the evidentiary burden for high value claims under the Federal scheme will be so onerous, that injured persons will simply prefer to lodge their claims under the relevant workers compensation scheme. This may be especially true for those deemed to be in prescribed employment, for whom there is already no requirement to prove causation in the contraction of coronavirus.
In these circumstances, and given the unknown long term effects of the TGA approved COVID- 19 vaccines, there may be significant flow on effects for the compensation reserves and insurance premiums.
At present there is no commentary as to whether payment of compensation under the Federal Government COVID-19 vaccine claims scheme will disentitle the claimant to benefits under their relevant workers compensation scheme – apart from the ‘double dipping’ provisions.
The Federal Government COVID-19 vaccine claims scheme, provides another avenue by which persons injured as a result of the COVID-19 vaccines can seek reimbursement, but does not take away from those person’s rights under the relevant workers compensation schemes. It does however, provide some welcome relief for employers.
At this stage, the Federal Government COVID-19 vaccine claims scheme remains under development. Until then, watch this space!…
This article was written by Jenne Tzavaras, Partner and Tarana Singh, Senior Associate.