To contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world, Taiwan included, have worked hard to roll out vaccines.
Many Taiwanese are worried about these vaccines’ possible side effects and adverse reactions. However, a rarely discussed issue in this regard is compensation in the event of death or injury from vaccination.
Although the Drug Injury Relief Act (藥害救濟法) is not applicable in those cases, injured parties can base claims on Article 30, Paragraph 1, of the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法), as well as on Article 2 of the Regulations Governing Collection and Review of Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund (預防接種受害救濟基金徵收及審議辦法).
Based on these two laws, people can claim compensation from local authorities, such as health bureaus, in the cities or counties where they were vaccinated.
According to the disease control act, individuals are eligible for compensation if injury occurs after “the inoculation of vaccines that have been issued a permit or approved for importation under a special case status by the central competent authority and have been found qualified by testing or document review.”
People who have been injured after vaccination with a drug not covered in the act cannot claim compensation.
The ministry’s vaccine injury compensation working group is responsible for reviewing compensation claims under the act. In principle, the working group should complete the review of a case within six months.
On a case-by-case basis, reviewers categorize the relationship between vaccination and injury as “unassociated,” “associated” or “indeterminate.”
If vaccine and injury are deemed “unassociated,” the claimant will receive no compensation, even though a subsidy for medical treatment or funeral of up to NT$300,000 (US$1,071) might be granted.
If the injury is found to be “associated” with the vaccination, or if causation cannot be clearly determined, the reviewers might grant a compensation payment of up to NT$6 million.
Claimants who disagree with the panel’s decision can further apply for administrative remedy.
From a scientific perspective, it is assumed that vaccinations benefit public welfare, despite unpredictable risks.
If a member of the public sustains an injury after inoculation with a vaccine that is promoted or required by the government, this is considered a special case.
The government therefore offers vaccine injury compensation to eligible claimants, and requires drugmakers to contribute to a vaccine injury compensation fund.
However, that mechanism is not designed to have drugmakers fund compensation for injury due to their vaccines, and does not imply any recklessness on their part or on the part of vaccine importers.
Many incidents have been reported in which people suddenly died after being vaccinated, although in most of the cases, no claims have been filed after autopsy.
Relatives of a person who dies after vaccination should file a claim, not just to receive compensation for the loss, but also so that the connection between vaccines and fatalities can be better understood for the benefit of the public.
Courts hearing cases concerning vaccine injury compensation are expected to follow the conclusion of the panel. As many claimants in COVID-19 vaccine injury cases will have limited resources to appeal the reviewers’ rulings, the courts should increase the panel’s burden of proof to better protect the rights of those injured by vaccination.
Hsieh Cheng-en is a lawyer.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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