UPDATE: On 24 November 2021, the Federal government announced that it was reducing the threshold of the “No Fault COVID-19 Vaccine Claim Scheme” to cover the cost of injuries above $1,000.00. Previously, the scheme only covered injuries above $5,000.00. As previously, all claims are assessed by independent experts and the compensation paid will be based on their recommendations.
On 28 August 2021, the Federal Government announced the imposition of a new “No Fault COVID-19 Vaccine Claim Scheme” (Scheme). So what does the Scheme entail?
Purpose of the Scheme
The purpose of the Scheme is to compensate anyone who experiences a moderate to significant proven adverse reaction after being administered a Therapeutic Goods Administration approved COVID-19 vaccine through a Commonwealth Government approved program.
Additionally, the Scheme provides a level of liability protection to medical staff who vaccinate Australians, and employers who implement vaccine mandates or voluntary vaccination programs for their employees. It does this by providing Australians with an alternative and streamlined method for accessing compensation. This should encourage Australians to pursue compensation via the Scheme rather than through litigation against medical staff or employers who administered the vaccine.
For further information on whether employers can implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, please see our previous article, ‘Can Employers implement compulsory COVID Vaccine programs for their Employees?’.
Substance of the Scheme
As of 31 August 2021, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved the Astrazeneca (recently renamed “Vaxzevria”), Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna vaccines for use in Australia. Australia has also ordered 51 million Novavax vaccines, which are expected to arrive later this year.
For the Scheme to apply, the vaccine must have been administered through a Commonwealth Government approved program. This means that people who are vaccinated overseas with one of the above vaccines and subsequently experience adverse effects, will be unable to access the scheme.
The Scheme will cover a person’s costs of injuries above $5,000.00 due to a proven adverse reaction from one of the above vaccines. This therefore effectively rules out any people suffering any minor or mild side effects from accessing the scheme. Additionally, all claims will be verified by a team of independent experts. The Scheme will pay out compensation in accordance with the recommendations of the independent experts.
To access the compensation, individuals will need to agree to make ‘no further claims’, which includes not pursuing legal proceedings with respect to the injury. While individuals may choose to instead pursue a claim via litigation, they are unlikely to receive more compensation by doing so. It is therefore expected that most potential claimants will prefer to pursue compensation via the simple administrative process provided by the Scheme and avoid engaging in complex and costly court processes.
Applying for the Compensation
The Scheme will be managed by Services Australia, with the costs of compensation to be fully funded by the Commonwealth. The application of the Scheme will be backdated to February 2021, which coincides with the initial rollout of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program. This should mean that anybody who received a COVID-19 vaccination through a Commonwealth Government approved program will be eligible, as long as they meet the other criteria.
People may register to access the Scheme from 6 September 2021 via this webpage: https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/covid-19-vaccine-claims-scheme
Paul Horvath Solicitor understands both employers and employees may have many questions regarding this scheme. If you would like to discuss your rights regarding this scheme, we are here to help. Call our office on (03) 9642 0435 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential discussion with our team.