Healthcare workers getting vaccinated at Gatesville Melomed vaccination centre in Athlone. Photographer Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)
Healthcare workers getting vaccinated at Gatesville Melomed vaccination centre in Athlone. Photographer Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Vaccine injury fund: call for ‘more clarity’

By Lorna Charles Time of article published Apr 22, 2021

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DURBAN - A CIVIL society organisation has called for government to grant more time for the public to comment on the Covid19 Vaccine Injury No-Fault Compensation Scheme.

The regulations for the scheme were released for public comment by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) , on April 15 with the closing date for comments on April 19.

Rob Hutchinson, managing director of civil society organisation DearSA, said they had requested an extension for comments to May 10 as they understood the importance of the matter. He also said the organisation took issue with the scheme being housed under the Disaster Management Act regulations.

“We don’t know how long this scheme will operate, don’t know how long the pandemic will be around, or what is an actual vaccine injury. There is too little information, and what constitutes a claim on the fund?”

According to the Government Gazette, the purpose of the Covid-19 Vaccine Injury No-Fault Compensation Scheme is to provide expeditious access to compensation for people who suffer vaccine injury as a consequence of a Covid-19 vaccine being administered. As part of the scheme, the Covid-19 Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund would be established.

The fund would consist of “funds appropriated by an Act of Parliament to the vote of Health or from contingencies in terms of appropriation legislation or the Public Finance Management Act; and funds accruing from any other source”.

The national Department of Health would be responsible for the administration of the scheme.

It also says that the health minister, in consultation with the finance minister, must issue directions to set out:

  • Persons eligible to make claims under the Scheme.
  • The vaccine injuries covered.
  • The specific vaccines to be covered. ¡ Facilities in South Africa where Covid-19 vaccinations are officially administered.
  • The timeline and duration of injury and the period of vaccinations that the scheme will cover.
  • The types of claims that may be made.
  • Requirements and procedures instituting claims.
  • The period in respect of which claims may be instituted with the scheme.

Earlier this week, Reuters reported that Health Minister Zweli Mkhize had said the compensation fund to cover potential injuries from Covid-19 vaccines could cost around R250 million in the first year.

“A contingent liability of approximately R250m for the first year would be provided for compensation of vaccine injury in a Covid-19 Vaccine NFC (no-fault compensation) Fund,” Mkhize said.

Mkhize said the potential cost was based on an estimate of between 800 and 2 000 successful claims and included the administrative costs of the fund. He said a committee of experts would develop a vaccine injury table to assess compensation applications.

Professor Alex van den Heever, a health economist and chair in the field of Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at the University of Witwatersrand, said the scheme was a requirement of the vaccine manufacturers.

“It arises from the fact that the clinical trials were expedited and the possibility that longer-term safety concerns could not be completely ruled out. Given that the vaccine is effectively being rolled out on a global basis, even a relatively small number of claims could pose financial risks for the manufacturers.”

He said the government’s framework was therefore required through an excess of caution because there isn’t an expectation of large claims.

“Given the emergency nature of the vaccine strategy globally, this is a relatively minor concession to the manufacturers. I cannot really speak to the merits of the specific fund that is being established, though.

“But it is unlikely that there will be a significant number of claims, given the global experience to date with millions of doses having been administered and only a tiny number of adverse events,” he said.

Cogta spokesperson Lungi Mtshali acknowledged that requests to extend the date for public comment had been made, however he was not able to confirm whether the extension would be granted at the time of publication.

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