WHO okays compensation fund for serious Covax vaccines side effect

People living in low- and middle-income countries like Kenya will be compensated if they develop adverse side effects from any of the vaccines delivered through the Covax facility.

This agreement paves way for countries to import vaccines from the Covax facility after the World Health Organisaton (WHO) issued a no-fault compensation plan for claims related to adverse effects from vaccines.

Tuesday the WHO agreed to cover claims of serious side effects that might be reported from the use of Covid-19 vaccines in any of the 92 advance market commitment countries receiving doses from the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) facility. These countries are mostly in Africa and Southeast Asia.

The agreement resolves a big concern among recipient governments which have been required to sign indemnity agreements before receiving the vaccines.

A no-fault compensation scheme is one in which accidents and injuries are regarded as inevitable, and the emphasis is on compensating victims for related expenses – without anyone having to enter the civil justice system and proving another party is liable for damages.

The WHO announced that it has signed an agreement with Chubb Limited, global insurance, and reinsurance company to offer the no-fault compensation programme, which the UN agency termed as the first and only vaccine injury compensation mechanism operating on an international scale.

“By providing a no-fault lump-sum compensation in full and final settlement of any claims, the Covax programme aims to significantly reduce the need for recourse to the law courts, a potentially lengthy and costly process,” the statement said.

Questions of how compensation claims would be handled in the event of any serious vaccine side effects have been floated by countries due to get shots via the Covax plan. In Kenya, the head of the vaccine task force noted that a conversation held with Gavi gave the Ministry three conditions to meet before they can dispatch the vaccines.

“The first is that we needed to have local registration, have an import licence, and indemnification of companies,” noted Dr Akhwale.

While the first two conditions are easy to meet according to Dr Akhwale, he explained that the government needed to sign indemnification or “no fault” agreements which absolve companies from liability in case of unexpected adverse effects arising from the emergency use of vaccines.

“We are in communication with Treasury, the Attorney General, and manufacturers before our orders are shipped,” explained Dr Akhwale.

Countries financing their own Covid-19 vaccine procurement also plan their own liability programmes.

The WHO-agreed plan is designed to cover serious side effects linked to any Covax-distributed vaccines until June 30, 2022. According to the statement, the programme will be financed initially from donor funding to the AMC as an extra charge on all doses of Covid-19 vaccines distributed through Covax.

The facility intends to deliver at least 1.3 billion doses to the 92 AMC-eligible countries in 2021.

“The No-Fault Compensation fund is a massive boost for Covax’s goal of equitable global access to vaccines: by providing a robust, transparent and independent mechanism to settle serious adverse events it helps those in countries who might have such effects, manufacturers to roll out vaccines to countries faster, and is a key benefit for lower-income governments procuring vaccines through the Gavi Covax AMC,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi.

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