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Is it time for a National Vaccine Compensation Scheme?

Is it time for a National Vaccine Compensation Scheme?

Published on June 23, 2021 by Joshua DaleJoshua Dale

As first published in Lawyers Weekly on 22 June 2021.

In the wake of new AstraZeneca restrictions to those aged over 60, it may be time to consider a National Vaccine Compensation Scheme in Australia, writes Joshua Dale.

Last week’s announcement of new health advice recommending AstraZeneca as the preferred vaccine for those aged 60 years or over, reignited debate about the vaccine roll-out in Australia.

The new health advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) sparked vaccine cancellations and renewed public concern about potential side effects of including blood clotting conditions that have resulted in life-threatening situations and even death.

Many aged 50 and over who had already received their first AstraZeneca dose before the updated health advice expressed concerns about receiving the second dose in the context of the changed health advice despite assurances from government medical authorities that it was safe to do so.

Vaccine confidence is now a serious issue for the Australian government and various states and territories across Australia.

Whilst the statistical analysis may provide some level of comfort to medical practitioners, the current messaging certainly seems to be that there are inherent risks associated with being vaccinated against COVID-19 with the new recommendation regarding AstraZeneca heightening existing concerns. 

Now more than ever people who are considering the vaccine need to be assured not only as to the safety of any vaccine and their ongoing good health but also their financial security in circumstances where the worst were to happen and they were unfit for work for a period of time as a result of COVID-19 vaccine.

Just as workers are now protected should they develop negative health impacts as a result of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace, equally they should be protected from any potential impact of the various vaccines.

In all of the circumstances it seems a prudent measure for either the federal or state and territory governments, or in conjunction with each other, to establish some type of temporary compensation scheme to ensure that there is financial protection to those undergoing and/or choosing to have the vaccine over the coming year and/or years if boosters and updated vaccination are required to protect against new and emerging variants of COVID-19.

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