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Kids “zero to four” added to vaccine injury claims

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Health authorities are adding children aged zero to four to Australia’s vaccine injury compensation claims scheme, as health authorities finish defining regulations to administer Covid-19 vaccines to babies and toddlers. Currently no coronavirus vaccines have been approved for children under five in Australia, however Greg Hunt has declared at Tuesday night’s budget meeting that planning is under way for “children aged zero to four.” 

Mr Hunt elucidated his belief that “vaccination against Covid-19 remains the most effective way to prevent severe disease, hospitalisation and death.”

“To date, more than 56 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered around Australia and more than 95 per cent of our population over the age of 16 (more than 19.9 million) have had at least one dose.”

“The government is investing more than $1 billion over two years to ensure continued access to safe and effective vaccines for all eligible people.” Mr Hunt said

“An investment of $690.4 million will see the vaccination program continue until the end of 2022, and ensure we are well prepared should medical advice recommend additional population groups be vaccinated, such as children aged zero to four years.”

Although not mentioned during the budget meeting, it has been noted in the new budget papers that the government had extended the Covid-19 vaccine claims scheme “to include children aged zero to four years and fourth doses for priority cohorts to access compensation for claims related to the administration of Therapeutic Goods Administration approved Covid-19 vaccines”.

The scheme allows citizens who suffer serious adverse reactions to the Covid-19 jabs the ability to claim up to $20,000 for lost income, medical bills, and other expenses. The scheme first started paying out claims earlier this year after more than 10,000 applications were registered.

To meet the requirements applicants must have sustained at the very least $1000 in losses, spent at minimum of one night in hospital as well as being able to provide evidence from a GP that the vaccine “was linked in medical documentation to the injury or harm related to a condition identified by the TGA”.

Also noted in the budget is that “the scheme will also provide compensation where the injury or harm caused or materially contributed to death.”

“Claims of $20,000 or more will be assessed by a panel of independent experts and compensation paid based on its recommendations.”

The scheme has been criticised by legal experts who have raised concerns that it is overly complex and only narrowly focused on a minimal number of adverse reactions, officially recognised by the medicine’s regulator. It is also suggested that the evidence thresholds are too steep as many doctors are unwilling to attribute health issues to the vaccines.

The federal government has also provided protection for vaccines manufacturers including Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Novavax “covering certain liabilities that could result from the use of the vaccines” but refrains from putting a dollar amount on the potential claims.

The budget papers also expressed “the financial implications of the Covid-19 treatment purchases and the Covid-19 Vaccine Claims Scheme are not for publication due to commercial sensitivities”.

During the press release it was also noted that an additional $200,000 was being assigned to “enable cardiac MRI for myocarditis to continue for a further six months.

Last year the Government temporarily added magnetic resonance imaging to diagnose myocarditis post Covid-19 vaccinations to the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

Myocarditis and pericarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle and inflammation of the lining around the heart – are known side effects associated with Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines occurring in every 1 in 10,000 administered doses currently, according to the TGA’s statistics.

It was announced last week that the government had secured a multibillion-dollar agreement with Moderna to construct a mRNA production facility in Melbourne, with the capacity to produce one hundred million doses annually.

Budget papers state that “the facility will be based in Victoria and will provide Australia with priority access to mRNA vaccines, and support research and development and domestic preparedness for possible future pandemics.”

“Funding for this measure is not for publication due to commercial-in-confidence sensitivities.”

Of the $1 billion of funding for vaccine distribution and uptake, $800.8 million will be allocated towards the “administration of primary and booster doses in primary care settings, pharmacies, aged and disability care facilities, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse communities”.

$172.9 million will be assigned to “implementation, monitoring, communications and reporting of the vaccine rollout, including digital and non-digital capabilities and expert advisory services”, and $69.3 million will be earmarked to the National Partnership on Covid-19 Response.

Additional purchases of Covid-19 treatments under advanced purchase agreements “on the advice of the Science and Industry Technical Advisory Group” have also been made.

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