Sir Christopher Chope Covid-19 Vaccine Damage Payments Bill

The avowed purpose of the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme (VDPS) is to offer redress to those who suffered life-changing injuries or bereavement as a result of being vaccinated against Covid-19. They did the right thing by public policy but too many are being ignored by the Government or suffering agonising delays in having their claims considered.

The Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme provides a one-off £120,000 payment to successful applicants. The sum is a fixed one and applies equally to a bereaved family as it does to an individual with serious or permanent disabilities. The payment amount has been frozen since 2007 without any increase for inflation. For those seriously injured, that sum is far too low to meet long term care and medical needs. For those whose disabilities are regarded as being less than 60%, there is no entitlement to any payment. This disability threshold is arbitrary as it seeks to equate injuries such as auto-immune conditions sustained by the vaccine injured with industrial injuries such as the loss of a hand.

Because of the inadequacies of the VDPS, many vaccine victims are driven to seek compensation in order to meet the costs of ongoing care. The only way they can do this is by issuing a civil claim against the vaccine manufacturers which have been indemnified by the Government as a condition of the production and use of a vaccine which had been inadequately tested. Civil claims for vaccine damage are inevitably complex with the consequence that many find it impossible to obtain legal representation, even where the potential claimant has established causation through a successful VDPS application.

Civil claimants face problems not only in accessing legal help but also in being able to meet the limitation time period which requires that claims must be brought within three years of the cause of action arising. This means that the current limitation period is acting as an effective bar on many valid claims. In many cases, the claimants are still awaiting resolution of their applications under the VDPS. More than 4,000 such claims are still outstanding with 2,000 outstanding for over six months and a significant number for over 18 months. Frustrated claimants point to the fact that the Government has a vested interest in impeding civil claims because of its obligation to indemnify manufacturers.

My Private Member’s Bill sets out a means whereby vaccine victims can receive increased financial assistance. The Bill also seeks to extend the limitation period from three to six years so that VDPS applicants can make civil claims where needed. The Bill also asks the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on the merits of a no-fault compensation scheme and an assessment as to whether there should be any upper limit on the financial redress available. It also seeks to widen eligibility to those who have suffered disablement to a degree less than 60%.

In essence, the Bill presents the Government with the opportunity to restore confidence in the redress system for vaccine victims and thereby reduce the increasing evidence of vaccine hesitancy on the part of patients who are worried that they will suffer harm as a result of vaccines and be left without any assistance. I have discussed my Bill with the Prime Minister at a private meeting and, having had no response, raised it in Prime Minister’s Questions on 13th March. He stated:

“I thank my hon. Friend for raising the issue and for the conversation I had with him. I extend my sympathies to all those who have been affected. I will of course ensure that he can meet the Secretary of State to discuss his Bill. We are, as I committed to him, looking at the issue in some detail to ensure that our policies are providing the support that is needed.”

He therefore promised me a meeting with the Secretary of State for Health but that has still not been fixed, illustrating the absence of any sense of urgency on the part of the Government to meet the serious needs of Covid-19 vaccine victims.

Sir Christopher Chope MP

Sir Christopher Chope is the Conservative MP for Christchurch, and was elected in 1997.