The World Health Organization’s announcement this week raises questions about funding, fairness and the basic ability to execute the program, but this much is clear: taxpayers will foot the bill.
By Wayne Rohde
On Monday, Feb. 22, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced what it billed as the world’s first global, “no-fault” vaccine injury compensation program for those who suffer what WHO described as “rare but serious adverse events” associated with COVID-19 vaccines.
The program will be available to those injured by vaccines distributed through COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, better known as COVAX.
COVAX is a global initiative to “accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.” The initiative is led by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi), WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the United Nations and others.
A total of 92 low- and middle-income countries and economies are eligible for the program, which will be administered by the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) of the COVAX Facility. The AMC, according to its website, is the financial mechanism through which the world’s poorest countries will get access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The program will start March 31, 2021. Individuals who have been injured by a COVID vaccine that was distributed through COVAX may apply for compensation via the COVAX website. According to WHO, the cut-off date for filing a petition for compensation is June 30, 2022.
Where will the money come from to compensate vaccine-injured people?
Not from the vaccine makers whose products caused the injuries. And not from WHO, Gavi or the UN, all of which receive substantial funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which, along with its founders, stand to profit from a number of the COVID vaccines — including those distributed by COVAX.
Funding for the new global vaccine injury compensation program will come from a levy assessed on COVID vaccines distributed through COVAX — vaccines that COVAX acquired using money provided by governments, including the U.S.
The U.S. committed $2 billion in 2021 and another $2 billion in 2022 for the purchase and development of COVID vaccines for the COVAX Facility.
In other words, this is a global consumer tax to pay for vaccine injuries, with no liability for vaccine manufacturers or the organizations that distribute them.
Using taxpayer money to compensate vaccine-injured victims is just one of the questions raised by WHO’s Monday announcement. Another that comes to mind is this: Will this compensation program be transparent with reporting and data?
That’s not likely, given that the new global program is modeled not after the National Vaccine Injury Program (NVIC) in the U.S., but after the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP) under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP).
Robert Krakow, a New York City attorney and former prosecutor who represents persons injured by vaccines told The Defender in a phone interview:
“The most notable feature of the WHO announcement about a ‘no-fault’ vaccine injury compensation program for ‘low and middle income countries’ touted as a ‘fast, fair, robust and transparent process’ is its lack of transparency. The program is presented as a way to ‘reduce the need for recourse to the law courts, a potentially lengthy and costly process.’
“What WHO fails to mention is the primary purpose of the program is to pave the way for massive distribution of vaccines by insulating vaccine manufacturers from liability for serious vaccine injuries — injuries that everyone agrees will inevitably happen. The WHO program is likely modeled after the U.S. PREP Act Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP), which uses an opaque process that severely limits the access vaccine injury victims have to compensation for serious injuries.”
In the U.S.,CICP already is receiving many petitions for injuries allegedly related to COVID vaccines, and also from other “countermeasures,” including medical devices and drugs.
Among the glaring deficiencies of the CICP system is that petitioners may not call on medical experts to testify to their injury and the mechanism of harm, which some legal scholars argue is unconstitutional. Since CICP does not reimburse attorneys, which means very few of the injured will have the resources to assemble convincing proof of causation.
Without experts to help guide petitioners through the administrative process, to evaluate their injury and to help provide a course of medical treatment for future needs, most CICP petitioners will be lost and completely unable to recover any compensation.
The new COVAX program is modeled after CICP — so it will likely come with the same set of problems.
COVID vaccines in use so far have all been approved for emergency use only, which means they are still in the experimental stage.
It also means that injuries related to the vaccines are likely to be hard to prove, and sadly, also hard to treat.
In fact, unlike with other vaccines, there are as yet no COVID vaccine injury profiles. Under NVIC, for instance, there are vaccine injury profiles, or tables, for each vaccine. In order for someone to claim an injury is related to a specific vaccine, that injury must be listed in the vaccine injury profile.
Without such profiles for COVID vaccines, how will COVAX handle these petitions?
Moreover, with multiple COVID vaccines in use, using different types of technologies and containing different ingredients, there would need to be distinct vaccine injury profiles for each different vaccine.
Who will have access to the final decisions granting or denying compensation?
The proposed structure appears to be solely administrative, with no appeal to a judicial system of any sort, as is the case in the U.S. with CIPC.
Another concern is the program’s arbitrary June 30, 2022 cut-off date to apply for compensation. COVAX forecasts that it will be able to vaccinate one-third of the population of all eligible nations by the end of 2021.
If that holds true, will it be possible to vaccinate the remaining two-thirds, or approximately 67%, by the end of 2022? If not, what happens to those people who are vaccinated at a later date, and later suffer an injury?
In announcing its vaccine injury compensation program, WHO also announced its partnership with Chubb, a Swiss insurance company. Chubb promotes itself as the world’s largest publicly traded property & casualty Insurance company, with a presence in more than 54 countries — yet another “public-private” partnership, with the clear implication that other insurance companies will also be involved.
Chubb’s subsidiary ESIS, Inc. signed an agreement to administer the compensation program. ESIS provides claim and risk management services to a wide variety of commercial clients.
Will ESIS have the medical expertise to interpret a flood of COVID-related injury claims? Is there a known COVID injury profile?
The overall concerning issue is the establishment and implementation of a global compensation program. Last fall, I wrote about how The PREP Act took the first step of federalizing vaccination policy by allowing pharmacists to administer the childhood vaccination schedule.
Now we have a partial-global compensation program for 92 countries to be run by the WHO, UN, Gavi and UNICEF — what could go wrong?
- Wayne Rohde is the author of The Vaccine Court-Dark Truth of America’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and The Vaccine Court 2.0. He is also the host of the Right On Point podcast, a candid legal discussion of your civil liberties, the NVICP, The PREP Act, and the CICP.
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