Bioethics Blogs

Vaccine Injury Compensation and the Common Good

Katharine Browne discusses the Canadian Medical Association’s decision not to implement a vaccine injury compensation program.

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Routine vaccinations are usually administered without incident. However, some individuals can suffer grave adverse effects. For example, Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare disorder that sometimes results in paralysis, has been linked to the flu vaccine. Likewise, other common vaccines such as those that protect against measles-mumps-rubella and chickenpox have potential serious risks. Where there are no vaccine injury compensation programs, victims of vaccine injury are left to traditional legal means for receiving compensation for their injuries. In tort law, compensation for injuries is based on negligence, which is hard to establish in the case of vaccines. This is because vaccine injury can happen despite the best practice of both vaccine manufacturer and provider. Consequently, vaccine injury victims have historically not fared well in court.

It is for this reason that many countries have implemented “no fault” vaccine injury compensation programs. Such programs provide individuals who have suffered adverse effects of a vaccine with a means of receiving compensation for their injuries without needing to establish fault on the part of either the vaccine manufacturer or provider. The kind of compensation offered varies depending on the particular program. In Quebec, for example, victims of vaccine injury are eligible for compensation for medical expenses associated with the injury, such as income lost because of injury, expenses related to rehabilitation and personal assistance, and funeral expenses in the case of death.

Statue commemorating the 30th anniversary of the eradication of smallpox by Martin Williams (2010), World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters, Geneva Switzerland.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.