A very small number of people in Ireland who receive the Covid vaccination could suffer a significant injury as a result and could then be entitled to compensation, a leading personal injury solicitor has warned.
iam Moloney, a partner at Moloney & Co Solicitors in Naas in Co Kildare, has urged the Government to establish a vaccine compensation scheme, similar to that already in place in the UK and the US. This would offset the State’s potential costs for claims related to a range of vaccines, including the Covid jab, and make the process far more accessible for those left with a significant injury after a vaccination.
Mr Moloney, who fully supports the nationwide vaccination roll-out, also said he was not seeking to take on any legal cases related to Covid.
“Anyone who has their vaccination and has a side-effect, they do not have an entitlement to sue for damages. But there are people who can suffer rare, adverse side-effects from various vaccines that cause a significant injury,” he said.
“Ultimately, there may be people who suffer an adverse reaction to the Covid jab. You would have to prove that a component of the vaccine caused the injury; it cannot just be a potential side effect that people are advised about.
“It would essentially be proving that there was something defective with the product. It would only be one out of every 400,000 people who might have a significant reaction. In terms of litigation, it would be a very difficult case to take,” he told the Sunday Independent.
“I’m not in any way anti-vaccination and I’m not propagating taking any cases. What I am is a personal injury lawyer with experience in these matters. We as solicitors must provide the best possible advice to people who contact us seeking advice.
“In the absence of a compensation scheme, legal cases would be very, very difficult. I am personally looking forward to having my own Covid vaccination.”
In December 2020, an expert group urged the Government to establish a vaccine compensation scheme as “a matter of urgency”.
The published report “accepts that there is a strong moral argument that the State, which actively encourages vaccination, should accept responsibility for those who suffer harm as a result”.
“There are also pragmatic reasons to support the establishment of a compensation scheme, namely: to maintain vaccination uptake rates, inspire confidence amongst the population and to maintain the supply of vaccines from manufacturers who may be concerned about liability and costs,” it added.
The report said the urgency with which the compensation scheme ought to be established “has been highlighted by recent publicity and public commentary concerning certain vaccines”.
Some members of the expert group held the view that awards made by a compensation scheme should be in line with awards that would be made by a court.
A more widely held view was that the awards ought to be below the level of an award that would be made by a court where liability was established.
The reason for this was that an ex gratia scheme would relieve claimants of the heavy onus of having to prove liability, but at the same time they would not lose their entitlement to bring court proceedings.