Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:19 pm on 2 March 2022.

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Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 7:19, 2 March 2022

The ruling on a causal link between a medicine and an adverse event, and whether that has led to death or injury, is made by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority. A process has to be followed—the process is independent of Government —and that has started on this range of vaccines. It remains vital that decisions are made on the evidence presented. Currently, the MHRA is going through the notes of affected patients to gather that evidence and look for causal links.

If these vaccines were perhaps five, six or seven years old, we would be in a very different place. However, as of 18 February this year, there have been 920 claims to the vaccine damage payment scheme related to covid-19. The work currently going on is establishing whether there is a causal link between the vaccine and the adverse events that people have been suffering. The yellow card scheme, which we have for all medicines, helps us to gather information, and I encourage people, whether they have had severe or minor symptoms—whatever they are—to report them, because that is how we gather evidence on medicines.

For all the claimants who have applied to the VDPS in relation to covid-19, while we are gathering evidence from their medical records, the approach will be to look at the assessment criteria and ensure that we are in the strongest possible position before we put the evidence to the medical examiner. That in turn will help ensure that claims are assessed as quickly as possible. We think that will take about six months. I will certainly meet my hon. Friend and ensure that we hold people’s feet to the fire so that there is not a longer delay than is needed. The NHSBSA is working as quickly as possible to progress claims. I understand that it has been in touch with claimants to update them on progress and will continue to update them as it has news.

We estimate that the process will take on average six months. It requires gaining access to people’s medical notes and their previous medical history, because, while someone may have had a reaction on the day, we cannot say for sure until we have looked at all the evidence that that is a causal link between the vaccine and the adverse event, even though there may be a strong suggestion that it is. It is therefore important to follow that process correctly.

My hon. Friend touched on payments. The payment was set originally at £10,000 in 1979, and it is currently £120,000. We have not made any payments in relation to the covid vaccine, but we are working at pace through all applications to the scheme and, once a causal link is established in those cases, we can look at those claims more swiftly.