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  • Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme: Covid19, 6 September 2022

We are here to discuss the vaccine damage payment scheme of 1979. My interest is as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on vaccinations for all, so it is clear that I am absolutely and utterly pro-vaccination.

We can be grateful for just how rare significant side effects or damage are when it comes to vaccines as a whole. However, as the right hon. and learned Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Sir Jeremy Wright) has said, if we are to maintain confidence not only in vaccination in principle but in further covid-19 vaccines, it is important that people feel secure and supported and that they are not hearing horror stories of people who have been hurt in some way by the vaccine and then just left stranded. It is vital that we do that, or we will see a rise in vaccine scepticism and vaccine hesitancy, and that will be manipulated exactly as we have seen over the last couple of years.

Alicia Kearns MP: As a former civil servant, I believe that the case load is so small that it is not unfair to expect Ministers to look at each case individually. They have the capacity and are capable. The purpose of vaccination is to protect not just ourselves but others around us, and many who have had negative consequences acted in the national interest and to protect their loved ones. They deserve the bare minimum of a Minister looking individually, case by case, to see what support they need and whether they deserve the vaccine payment or some exceptional support. Does the hon. Lady agree?

Philippa: I totally agree. The Government’s response to the petition talks of 174 cases. When I was a breast cancer surgeon and there was the scandal about PIP implants, which I knew we had never used, I still had to go through every single breast reconstruction I had done in a period of 17 years in order to absolutely verify that that was not the implant. It is absolutely possible with such numbers.

At the moment, only 11 cases have been settled. Only 2% in recent years have been successful. Whenever any kind of scheme has only that kind of return, it has to be looked at. As has been said, it is a long wait and people are left not able to work or they have family pressures and receive no support. Who is deciding the 60% disablement? As has been said, it is an absolute cut-off. Even the maximum payment has not been reviewed since 2010 and it would not cover anyone for 20 or 25 years of lost earnings and ability.

The Government say it is not compensation. I think that a no-fault scheme is absolutely right. I raised this issue with the right hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) when he was Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment, in December 2020, and said that if the Government were removing liability from pharmaceutical firms, they had to step in and replace them. I would like to see the VDPS improved for all vaccine users, but the covid-19 vaccine is a specific case where urgent action is needed and where it is even more important to get financial support.

We heard about cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and how catastrophic, but thankfully rare, it is. People have also had micro-thrombosis and an array of autoimmune responses to the vaccines. My constituent, who does not want to be named, suffered from Guillain-Barré syndrome, which is now recognised and mentioned in association with the vaccines. It is a neurological condition that has caused him to have partial facial paralysis and problems with balance. That may sound minor, but he worked at heights in a majorly physical job and has not been able to work since spring 2020. He, and people like him, are terrified of the 60% disablement. He imagines that when he walks into a room, regardless of his facial appearance or his balance, people will think, “Well, you’re not really that bad”, but he cannot do the job he was doing before.

It is vital that we take these cases out of the VDPS, deal with them quickly to ensure confidence in the covid-19 vaccine, and take the time to change the VDPS to make it responsive, quick and something that the public believe in. In total, there are currently only just over 2,000 cases, which is not an overwhelming number to work through if it means that we maintain confidence in vaccines and the benefits they bring to all age groups, throughout our lives, against multiple diseases.

About the author 

Heather Knox

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