Compensation scheme to shield employers, medicos who vaccinate Australians

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Employers and medical professionals who vaccinate Australians will be protected by a new compensation scheme for anyone who suffers from the exceptionally rare but sometimes serious side effects of coronavirus jabs.

Services Australia will take claims for the no-fault scheme from September 6 but anyone with side effects from either the Pfizer or the AstraZeneca jabs since February will be able to apply, giving Australians a faster and cheaper alternative to going to court.

Anyone who has a serious adverse reaction to a coronavirus vaccine will be able to claim compensation.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Saturday that the long-promised scheme would apply to people who got their jab anywhere, including at work, giving confidence to employers who are eager to begin voluntary jab programs.

It could also remove a hurdle for employers considering making jabs mandatory following plans announced by food manufacturer SPC, Qantas and taxi company 13Cabs because costly claims from workers with side effects will be less likely. The same is true of states that have mandated jabs for some workers, such as teachers and health workers in NSW.

“Side effects, or adverse events, from COVID-19 vaccinations can occur, but most are mild and last no longer than a couple of days,” Mr Hunt said.

“Serious and life-threatening side effects are very rare, but it is important that we provide a safety net to support those affected.”

The scheme will only cover verified claims valued above $5000 by a team of independent experts. It will pay out compensation based on their recommendations.

The Insurance Council of Australia, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and several employer groups welcomed the scheme, which industry and experts had demanded for months.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which had pushed for the scheme, said businesses had previously been concerned that workplace jab programs could saddle them with complex legal claims. Now, it said in a statement, industry had the “green light” to set up workplace jab drives.

“This scheme is a vote of confidence in the safety of the vaccines being used in Australia and sends a strong message to patients that, in the extremely rare case of serious side effects, you can access compensation without having to resort to expensive and complex litigation,” AMA president Omar Khorshid said.

Those who do not want to use the scheme will still be able to go to court, but they are unlikely to receive any more money. A Health Department spokesman said the no-fault scheme was designed to pay out a similar amount to a court.

“It will be necessary to agree to ‘no further claims’, including not taking legal proceedings in respect of the same injury, as a condition of the compensation payment,” the spokeswoman said. Vaccine makers have already been indemnified.

Other vaccines expected to be used in Australia, such as Moderna and Novavax, will also be covered by the scheme.

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