Covid vaccine injuries assessed on post-WW2 disability scheme

Jane Edwards
Jane Edwards

Claims for injuries caused by the Covid-19 vaccine are being judged on a threshold set before the Second World War for wounded soldiers, it has emerged, as patients called for the system to be overhauled.

The Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme (VDPS) awards a one-off tax-free payment to people severely disabled as a result of vaccination against certain diseases, including coronavirus.

Claimants to the scheme must be deemed to be “60 per cent disabled” as a result of the jab to receive the £120,000 payment.

But lawyers, academics and the vaccine injured have questioned the process used to assess the claims, amid concerns it is using “antiquated” metrics to establish severe disablement.

The concept of severe disablement, which is set out in the Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979, is derived from pre-WW2 industrial injuries and war pension schemes.

It uses a percentage of disablement aimed to ensure only those most in need would benefit, related to their ability to find employment following their injury.

Loss of one eye rates 40 per cent

The loss of both hands counts as 100 per cent disabled, while the loss of one finger is 14 per cent, according to Schedule 2 of The Social Security (General Benefit) Regulations 1982 – which is being used by the medical assessor processing Covid vaccine claims.

Losing your leg at the hip amounts to 90 per cent disablement but the loss of one eye, without complications, is 40 per cent.

More than 144.7 million Covid-19 jabs have been administered in England and 59 deaths were registered, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The number of people who experienced life-changing adverse reactions to coronavirus vaccines is also low.

Up to Nov 23 2022, 445 cases of major thromboembolic events (blood clots) with concurrent thrombocytopenia (low platelet counts) were recorded in the UK following an AstraZeneca jab, according to data from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

The VDPS is overseen by the NHS Business Service Authority (NHSBSA), but the processing of the claims was outsourced in 2021 to two independent firms under a five-year contract worth £6 million.

More than 4,000 Covid-19 vaccine injury claims have been submitted since November 2021, around 800 have been rejected and 48 have been successful, according to figures shared both by ministers and Freedom of Information requests.

The NHSBSA increased the number of staff working on the scheme from four to 80, and said it was in the process of adding more information to its website about the process to support claimants.

According to the internal training handbook for one of the medical assessment companies, seen by The Telegraph, staff are told to compare the claimant’s disability to the percentage criteria set out in the Social Security Regulations.

“In order to assess if the arising disablement meets the threshold for award, the disability must be compared to the percentage criteria set out in appendix B of part one: schedule two of the Social Security (General Benefit) Regulations 1982,” it reads.

Sarah Moore, a partner at law firm Hausfeld, said there was “no credible justification” for using the 60 per cent threshold.

Ms Moore is leading a group legal action against AstraZeneca on behalf of families injured or bereaved as a result of complications from the Covid vaccine.

“The 60 per cent injury threshold is antiquated and unfair: Antiquated because the concept of ‘percentage disablement’ is derived from Industrial Injuries and War Pensions schemes from before the Second World War,” she said.

“Opaque because any assessment of physical injury which seeks to translate it into percentage terms is going to be highly subjective. Unfair because the scheme can ‘give’ with one hand, acknowledging that someone has been injured as a direct result of vaccination, but leave an individual without financial support on the basis that they are not ‘injured enough’.”

‘Graded basis would be fairer’

She added: “A fairer system would seek to provide financial support for all those injured as a result of vaccination on a graded basis – ie, with different awards made to those with different levels of injury.”

A Government spokesman said: “More than 144 million Covid vaccines have been given in England, which has helped the country to live with Covid and saved thousands of lives.

“All vaccines being used in the UK have undergone robust clinical trials and have met the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s strict standards of safety, effectiveness and quality.

“The Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme provides additional support to help ease the burden on individuals who have, in extremely rare circumstances, been severely disabled due to receiving a government-recommended vaccine for a listed disease.”