Australian Government Indemnifies COVID Vaccine Against Lawsuits

October 9, 2020 Updated: October 12, 2020

The Australian government will indemnify drug manufacturers against legal action for any adverse side-effects caused by the COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently undergoing trials.

The government has decided against implementing a no-fault compensation scheme to cover any potential claims from patients experiencing side-effects from the new drug, according to a statement issued by the Department of Health to The Epoch Times.

“The government is committed to providing access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines,” the statement read.

“The government has acknowledged the need to appropriately share risks associated with achieving early access to a successful vaccine and has actively engaged with potential COVID-19 vaccine suppliers on this issue,” it continued.

British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is currently sponsoring the development of a vaccine at Oxford University, while Melbourne’s Commonwealth Serum Labs (CSL) is backing a vaccine project at the University of Queensland.

Trials at Oxford University were suspended temporarily after the vaccine caused a “potentially unexplained” illness in one of the test subjects.

The federal government has signed an agreement to buy 84.8 million doses of a successful vaccine.

No-fault schemes currently operate in a range of countries including Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Denmark, Germany, and Austria etc.

They would cover individuals for any adverse reaction to a vaccine without having to go through a court process, which can often be costly.

Nicholas Wood, associate professor at the University of Sydney and vaccine expert, said there was an “ethical justification” for a vaccine injury compensation scheme to operate in Australia.

“If we are to encourage target groups to receive COVID-19 vaccines for the benefit of the entire community … it follows that the Australian Government should compensate for any unforeseen, rare but serious, adverse event deemed to be due to a COVID-19 vaccine,” he wrote in the Australian Journal of General Practice.

Court processes, however, have traditionally offered greater scrutiny over the parties involved and in identifying flaws in the circumstances leading up to an injury or side-effect. Out-of-court settlements are also likely, particularly for apparent injuries.

During pandemics, governments have historically relied on major pharmaceutical firms to create vaccines. The firms undertake a risk themselves knowing they need to speed up research and development to break new ground in medical research in time to contain a pandemic.

In this situation, the firms may seek assurances from the government that they will be indemnified against legal action. For example, the UK government indemnified British multinational GlaxoSmithKline in its development of a vaccine against the swine flu pandemic in 2009.