Who will pay for any adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccine?

The little-known People’s Anti-corruption Movement (PAM), led by human rights advocate Lloyd D’Aguilar, has raised concerns about a lack of government transparency on liability for possible health complications developed in people inoculated with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Last Wednesday, a handful of members of the group staged a protest at the offices of the Ministry of Health and Wellness in New Kingston, providing members of the media with a list of concerns and calling on portfolio minister Dr Christopher Tufton to publicly address the matter of legal responsibility for adverse effects after inoculation.

“The Ministry of Health needs to state publicly whether it assumes responsibility for any damage done to any Jamaican citizen who is given the COVID-19 vaccine,” read a statement issued by the group on Wednesday ahead of the protest.

The Government of Jamaica, as participants in the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility, would have signed an indemnity agreement with vaccine manufacturers, granting them immunity from possible law suits, a matter which the group says the State needs to address publicly.

“The Government has declared that it will indemnify vaccine supplier AstraZeneca. Hence, it needs to make it explicit that it has therefore assumed responsibility for damage. The same applies in terms of vaccines to be supplied from other sources, including the Government of India,” the statement read.

The group also questioned whether the Government would be setting up a reporting system for adverse effects following vaccination, similar to the United States Center for Disease Control’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) website.

Several European countries suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports of blood clots in some vaccinated individuals, about which the European Medicines Agency issued a statement on Thursday saying that “the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered” while investigation of cases of blood clotting events is ongoing.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton later doubled down on the Government’s commitment to administering the vaccine.

“Our position is that we remain committed to the vaccine and the efficacy of the vaccine as outlined by experts and the WHO [World Health Organization]. The WHO’s position remains, and the vaccine has been administered to millions of persons so far around the world, and we have not had incidents that could change that expert view that it is an effective and safe vaccine,” Minister Tufton said at the weekly ‘COVID Conversations’ streamed live on Thursday evening.

However, talking with the Jamaica Observer on Saturday, D’Aguilar insisted that the Government needs to give public reassurance that it will take responsibility in the event that individuals develop health complications following inoculation.

He further raised the matter of a public/private partnership between the Government of Jamaica and the private sector in the acquisition and administration of the vaccines, possibly creating a situation in which workers are compelled to being vaccinated.

So far, more than 17,000 Jamaicans, primarily health care workers, have been vaccinated since the Government of Jamaica started administering the AstraZeneca vaccine on Wednesday.

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