COVID Led to Sharp Rise in Vaccine Compensation Schemes, but Gaps Remain

LONDON (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic led to a nearly six-fold increase in the number of non-fault compensation schemes for vaccine injuries globally, said Oxford University researchers who on Friday made public an online database tracking the schemes.

Regulators globally have shown that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and adverse events are extremely rare. But in those rare cases, the pandemic exposed problems in some countries — such as in the United States — with vaccine compensation schemes when large proportions of populations are inoculated.

The Oxford project’s website could help people who want to make a claim as well as governments, policymakers and academics to see what schemes are available in their country and compare them to elsewhere, the university said in a statement.

The first phase of the three-year research project, funded by drug industry lobby IFPMA (International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations), found that at least 146 countries operated a scheme related to COVID-19 vaccines. In January 2020, when the pandemic began, only 26 vaccine compensation schemes existed.

“We know there are clear gaps where there is no coverage at all, and others where there isn’t a lot of information,” said Sonia Macleod, lead researcher on the project and a scholar at Oxford’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies. She named Brazil as a country that has no compensation scheme, for example.

There are three multinational compensation schemes operated by the programmes known as COVAX and AVAT (African Vaccine Acquisition Trust), which distributed COVID vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, and by the U.N. agency UNICEF.

The next phase of research will assess whether people are using the schemes, but it was clear from the project’s initial phase how difficult it can be to find information about some of them, the team said.

The draft pandemic treaty which is being negotiated by World Health Organization member states calls for a global compensation scheme for vaccine injuries.

(Reporting by Maggie Fick; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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