Canada launches its first national vaccine injury compensation program

A national vaccine injury compensation program, first announced in December 2020, was officially launched Tuesday, allowing Canadians who have experienced severe adverse reactions to an approved COVID-19 vaccine to apply for compensation.

The Vaccine Injury Support program, announced in a statement issued by Dr. Theresa Tam, will provide financial support to those determined to have experienced a serious and permanent injury after receiving a Health Canada-authorized vaccine in Canada on or after Dec. 8, 2020.

Anyone who experiences a severe adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine will be eligible for compensation under the program by submitting a claim that answers the following questions:

  • Were you vaccinated in Canada?
  • Which province or territory did the vaccination occur?
  • Was the date of the vaccination on or after December 8, 2020
  • Is the injury serious and permanent or has it resulted in death?

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), financial support will also be available to the dependents of those who have died after receiving a vaccination. That support may include income replacement, payment for injuries, death benefits including funeral expenses, and other eligible costs, such as uncovered medical expenses.

The amount of financial support provided will be determined on a case-by-case basis, but compensation will be retroactive from the date of the injury or death.

In terms of what constitutes a severe or permanent injury, PHAC says patients must have experienced “life-threatening or life-altering injuries that may require in-person hospitalization, or a prolongation of existing hospitalization, and results in persistent or significant disability or incapacity, or where the outcome is a congenital malformation or death.”

Although the compensation program will cover all current and future Health Canada authorized vaccines, calls for the long-awaited program have grown as Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts ramp up.

Details around the program have remained sparse since the government’s initial announcement in December 2020, prompting concerns from advocates and outrage from those adversely affected by COVID-19 vaccines.

And while serious reactions to vaccines are extremely rare -- less than one in a million, according to PHAC -- they have happened.

As of May 21, there have been 5,989 reports of adverse events in Canada following a COVID-19 vaccine, representing 0.029 per cent of all doses. Of those, 1,126 were considered serious, representing 0.006 per cent of all doses.

As of last week, there were just over two dozen confirmed cases of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, also known as VITT, in Canada related to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, with another 14 under investigation. Five people have died of the condition.

Advocates in Canada have been calling for a VISP since the 1980s. Until now, Canada was the only G7 nation without such a program, though Quebec has had a provincial version in place since 1987.

There is also a fund for 92 low- and middle-income nations provided through the World Health Organization and the COVAX program.

These programs are meant to support those who experience serious side-effects from a vaccine or treatment, without placing the blame on the pharmaceutical companies who might be slower to develop a treatment if they’re held liable for every adverse effect from a vaccine.

Canada’s program will be administered by RCGT Consulting on behalf of PHAC and is already accepting claims.

Today the Public Health Agency of Canada launched a Vaccine Injury Support Program that will support people in Canada who have experienced a serious and permanent injury after receiving a Health Canada authorized vaccine.

For more information, visit: https://t.co/BF00CNpH8H

— Dr. Theresa Tam (@CPHO_Canada) June 1, 2021