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'side-effects' Fianna Fáil TD says government must end delays on Covid vaccine compo scheme

'Apart from anything else, knowledge of the existence of such a scheme would maintain people's confidence in taking it'

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Willie O'Dea

Willie O'Dea

Willie O'Dea

The Government must end delays on establishing a fast-track compensation scheme for the small minority of people likely to suffer damage from the Covid-19 vaccine.

The call has come from former minister and Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea, who has said that he is not in any way giving succour to the anti-vaccination movement.

“It is a simple fact of life, in line with previous experience, that some people may suffer health side-effects. For their welfare, and to protect the interests of the Irish taxpayer a redress scheme should be ready to deal with this important issue,” the Limerick City constituency TD told the Irish Independent.

Mr O’Dea pointed out that over a year ago, in December 2020, an expert group led by High Court judge Mr Justice Charles Meenan, recommended such a scheme be established. The group’s report said there were “strong moral and pragmatic arguments” in favour of such a scheme.

The Fianna Fáil TD said the State is now engaged in the largest mass vaccination programme ever.

He said the Irish Government, in line with the practice in most other states, had indemnified the vaccine companies to speed up the inoculation rollout, and there was no doubt that the taxpayer must ultimately “carry the can” in the case of resultant harm to people taking the vaccine.

"Apart from anything else, knowledge of the existence of such a scheme would maintain people's confidence in taking it,” Mr O’Dea argued.

In a formal reply to the questions from Mr O’Dea, the Taoiseach has said the issue continues to get “serious consideration from Government”.

But Mr Martin also said that the priority remained getting as many people fully vaccinated as quickly as possible to maximise community protection and protect health services.

"It is a scheme I am particularly interested in advancing in consultation with my government colleagues and the Attorney General,” the Taoiseach said.

Mr O’Dea has said that, as people line up for their third injection, the long delay in producing such a scheme is increasingly worrying.

“This one should be on the shelf and ready for use. Its absence increases the risk that this is another lucrative opportunity for the legal fraternity,” he said.

Officials say the Health and Justice Departments have been doing exploratory work on the matter.

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The compensation scheme recommendation was one of several in the Meenan report. It reviewed the law of torts and current systems for the management of clinical negligence claims.

The study was commissioned by the Government in 2018 against the backdrop of the CervicalCheck screening controversy. A key aim was to consider an alternative mechanism to the court process for resolving clinical negligence claims.

However, the group rejected the idea of a Medical Injuries Assessment Board (MIAB) along the lines of the existing Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB).

Instead it outlined measures to streamline the court process, including the creation of a dedicated High Court list for the management and hearing of clinical negligence claims.

Reasons for rejecting a MIAB included that clinical negligence injuries tend to be too complex for a “paper-based” assessment, and often contain a psychological component.

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