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Protect Canadians from disease and accidental vaccine injury, new study says

February 16, 2011

Canadian disease immunization efforts should be supported by a no-fault compensation programme for people who sustain vaccine-related injuries, according to new research from the University of Toronto, the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

Immunization programmes are considered a corner-stone of Canadian public health and are responsible for the dramatic decline in the incidence and severity of many vaccine-preventable diseases. However, every year in Canada, despite the best practices of both vaccine manufacturers and health care professionals, a few individuals may sustain serious harm after receiving vaccination. Participating in a vaccination program is not just for personal protection from disease; it is designed to protect or mitigate the spread of disease across the population.

“When people undergo vaccination, there is a benefit to the broad population. However, the unfortunate few who do suffer vaccine-related injuries bear the burden of this harm while contributing to a public good,” said Professor Jennifer Keelan of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

The study, by Prof. Keelan and co-author Prof. Kumanan Wilson is published in the current edition of the Munk School for Global Affairs’ journal MCIS Briefings. The researchers analyzed vaccination programmes in 13 jurisdictions and prepared in-depth analysis of programmes in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and in the province of Quebec. Canada and Russia are the only G8 nations which have not implemented a no-fault compensation scheme.

“Despite radical differences in approaches, administration, and eligibility criteria, data from all four jurisdictions studied shows that the average number of claims and compensation amounts are relatively stable and predictable and represent both an affordable and reasonable expenditure as part of an overall national vaccination immunization programme,” said Prof. Wilson, Canada Research Chair in Public Health Policy at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the University of Ottawa.

Among the study’s recommendations for a national no-fault programme:

  • The principle aim should be to fairly compensate those likely injured from a vaccine recommended by the federal government or its agencies.
  • The programme should ideally be administered by an arms-length agency, e.g., the Public Health Agency of Canada, but independent of the branches of government responsible for the promotion and safety of vaccines.
  • A reasonable statute of limitations for filing claims, as well as required documentation, should be set.
  • The injury itself must result in some measurable uninsured damages or costs. In the case of death, a benefit would be paid out similar to an accidental death insurance benefit.
This research was supported by funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Full study: http://webapp.mcis.utoronto.ca/resources/munkpapers/keelan_workingpaper_feb2011.pdf

Media contacts:
Jennifer Paterson, OHRI, jpaterson@ohri.ca, 613-798-5555 x 73325
Paul Cantin, University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, paul.cantin@utoronto.ca, 416-978-2890