27.05.2024

Damaged by AstraZeneca’s Covid jab but on Universal Credit?

Campaigners have demanded immediate changes to the ‘cruel’ financial support scheme for Brits injured or left bereaved by Covid vaccines like AstraZeneca’s.

Severely-disabled survivors and grieving families have endured year-long delays in getting the £120,000 pay-out, leaving some close to losing their homes, struggling to pay the bills and relying on food banks.

Others have been told they are ineligible for the Government’s one-off payment — because they are simply not ‘disabled enough’.

The fee can also affect benefits such as Universal Credit.

By law, Brits who suffer a severe disability or lose a loved one to one of over a dozen jabs recommended by the Government can be eligible for the tax-free sum.

Campaigners have demanded immediate changes to the ‘cruel’ financial support scheme for Brits injured or left bereaved by Covid vaccines like AstraZeneca’s

Campaigners have demanded immediate changes to the 'cruel' financial support scheme for Brits injured or left bereaved by Covid vaccines like AstraZeneca's

The AstraZeneca vaccine is a genetically engineered common cold virus that used to infect chimpanzees. It has been modified to make it weak so it does not cause illness in people and loaded up with the gene for the coronavirus spike protein, which Covid-19 uses to invade human cells

The Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme, set-up in 1979, is meant to reassure people that, in the extremely unlikely event that something goes wrong, the state will give them financial support.

Real-world evidence has repeatedly proven vaccines — championed by MailOnline throughout the pandemic — are safe and save lives.

Yet, like with every medicine, they carry risks.

In theory, the vaccine damages scheme combats this element of vaccine hesitancy and helps encourages the public to get jabbed.

However, Brits who have actually applied for the scheme say its flaws could actually impede any future, Covid-style drives.

Sheila Ward’s husband, Stephen Ward, pictured above, was 57 when he died on March 23, 2021, just a couple weeks after getting the Astra Zeneca Covid vaccination

One of these is Sheila Ward, 55, from Newcastle-Under-Lyme, whose husband died in spring 2021 from a blood clot confirmed to be caused by AstraZeneca’s jab.

‘The way the scheme is and the lack of support being given to people will result in people getting angry and create more hesitance about vaccines,’ she told MailOnline.

Her husband, Stephen, was just 57 when he died on March 23, 2021, just a couple of weeks after getting vaccinated.

He retired from the Coop after working there for 40 years.

Yet he had intended on taking up another job which would have allowed him to care for his elderly mother, who had fractured her hip at the end of the first lockdown in 2020.

Mrs Ward describes her husband as being a healthy and active man who was always on the go.

She told MailOnline: ‘We all know that medications come with side effects.

‘But when you are being told something is safe and effective continuously and told to do it for society and then the side effects are serious injury or death, it comes as a bit of a shock.’

Furious at how ministers have taken an ‘all or nothing’ approach to the scheme, she joined VIB UK, a campaign group fighting for better financial support for anyone left injured or bereaved because of the vaccine.

It wants the Government to adopt a tiered system, which would dole out cash based on personal situations instead of the current blanket approach. VIB UK’s petition for the rule change has already amassed 11,000 signatures.

The full list of vaccines that Government will pay financial support for, if you’re left 60 per cent disabled
  • COVID-19
  • diphtheria
  • haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • human papillomavirus
  • influenza, except for influenza caused by a pandemic influenza virus
  • measles
  • meningitis B
  • meningitis C
  • meningitis W
  • mumps
  • pandemic influenza A (H1N1) 2009 (swine flu) — up to 31 August 2010
  • pertussis (whooping cough)
  • pneumococcal infection
  • poliomyelitis
  • rotavirus
  • rubella
  • smallpox — up to 1 August 1971
  • tetanus
  • tuberculosis

You may have had a combined vaccination against a number of the diseases listed. For example, you might have been vaccinated against DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) or MMR (measles, mumps and rubella).

You may also be able to get a payment if you’re severely disabled because either:

  • your mother was vaccinated against one of the diseases in the list while she was pregnant
  • you’ve been in close physical contact with someone who’s had an oral vaccine against poliomyelitis

Backing the calls, Mrs Ward added: ‘I would like the compensation to be assessed on the needs of the individual.

‘At least enough not to send them into poverty or the benefits system.’

Despite her loss, Mrs Ward said she is still in firm support of vaccination and is clear the campaign she is supporting isn’t an ‘anti-vax type thing’.

Instead for Mrs Ward, the goal is ensuring those affected by side effects get the right support.

She said: ‘I put myself in the situation — if I was a person who had been left severely disabled or had got young children, how would I have coped, or if I had still got a mortgage, had no family around to help support me. It is not enough.’

Freedom of information (FOI) requests to NHS Business Services Authority, the body which manages the UK’s Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme, show £3.7m has been paid out to 31 Brits injured or bereaved from AstraZeneca’s Covid jab since November 2021.

No-one has been paid out for injuries or deaths relating to Pfizer or Moderna’s jab so far.

Seventy-eight Brits injured or bereaved by Covid jabs specifically have already been told they are entitled to the fee.

The successful claims cover those affected by vaccine-induced thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (VITT), the major complication that spooked health chiefs across the world.

Others developed Guillain-Barre syndrome or suffered other blood clots.

Another FOI, submitted by VIB-UK, also revealed that thousands more applications have been rejected or are still under consideration, with dozens being processed every month. Some are rejected because there is no proof that a Covid jab was to blame.

Those wanting to make such a claim fill in a form naming the medics involved in their care. They then provide relevant evidence, and the claim and medical records are put before an assessor to check eligibility for a payout.

To keep up with the demand posed by Covid jabs, the Government has increased the number of staff managing the scheme from four to 80.

One FOI, submitted by VIB UK, found that nearly 400 claims had been left waiting 18 months for a decision.

Length of time to payment, which is given as one lump of cash, is not the only flaw in the UK’s vaccine injury compensation scheme, however.

Brits bereaved due to a vaccine, who are also on Universal Credit, can suffer knock-on effects — because the Government classifies it as ‘income’.

Common side effects, which health bosses say can affect more than 10 per cent of recipients, include fatigue, 'flu-like' symptoms, and pain in the arms or legs. Stomach pain, a rash and excessive sweating were uncommon, strikes roughly one in 100 people who get vaccinated

Common side effects, which health bosses say can affect more than 10 per cent of recipients, include fatigue, ‘flu-like’ symptoms, and pain in the arms or legs. Stomach pain, a rash and excessive sweating were uncommon, strikes roughly one in 100 people who get vaccinated

Rare (approximately one in 1,000) issues include facial drooping on one side. Very rare (one in 10,000) side effects can see people paralysed

This could see some losing, or having reduced benefits, making the payment worth less than the same payment made to a wealthier Brit not on state support.

‘They are giving it to you in one hand and then taking it back from you in another,’ Mrs Ward said.

‘Say if I was getting universal credit because I had lost my job or couldn’t work, once that payment is received I would lose my universal credit.

‘People have come close to losing their homes because they have come close to losing their disability benefit and can no longer afford the mortgage.’

Aaron Bell, MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, raised this flaw in the House of Commons in January, on behalf of Mrs Ward.

He said: ‘The vaccines have been incredibly important and largely very effective at stopping Covid, but there have been a few cases where there are side effects and we should acknowledge that.

‘We have a vaccine damage payment scheme for such cases.

‘But Universal Credit does not disregard payments made under that scheme as it does for some other payment schemes that we have in the country.’

Mrs Ward wants to see the Government repayment scheme assessed on the needs of the individual, instead of being set at a £120,000 handout.

She said someone with a life-long disability whose partner needs to give up work to care should be given enough money to ‘at least not send them into poverty’.

But another of the scheme’s quirks may be its cruelest.

The eligibility criteria for the scheme is that a person must either die or be left 60 per cent disabled due to a vaccine.

This means a person theoretically judged to be only 59 per cent disabled will not get a penny.

The extent of a person’s disability is based on an assessment by a doctor and can include both physical disablement, such as the loss of a limb, or mental disablement such as a decline cognitive function.

It also means there is no escalation of the sum received.

So, for example, someone who is completely paralysed by a vaccine would receive the same £120,000 as someone who lost a leg as long because both reach this 60 per cent threshold.

The Department for Work and Pensions advice on the scheme states it classes going blind or deaf as being 100 per cent disabled.

Dozens of cases have already been rejected thus far for failing to meet the criteria, meaning they get nothing, according to Government data.

Mrs Ward argues such a limitation is arbitrary, as even a disability classed as 40 per cent could still impact your work.

In a very small number of cases — about one in 100,000 in the UK — the vaccine can set off a chain reaction which leads to the body confusing its own blood platelets for fragments of virus. The shell of the vector vaccine — the weakened cold virus used to teach cells how to neutralise Covid — sometimes acts like a magnet and attracts platelets, a protein found in the blood. For reasons the scientists are still probing, the body then mistakes these clumps as a threat and produces antibodies to fight them. The combination of the platelets and the antibodies clumping together leads to the formation of dangerous blood clots

In a very small number of cases — about one in 100,000 in the UK — the vaccine can set off a chain reaction which leads to the body confusing its own blood platelets for fragments of virus. The shell of the vector vaccine — the weakened cold virus used to teach cells how to neutralise Covid — sometimes acts like a magnet and attracts platelets, a protein found in the blood. For reasons the scientists are still probing, the body then mistakes these clumps as a threat and produces antibodies to fight them. The combination of the platelets and the antibodies clumping together leads to the formation of dangerous blood clots

‘You don’t need to be 60 per cent disabled to be not be able to work again or for it to have significant impact on your potential earnings because you are no longer able to do the job you previously did.’

Lawyers have also criticised the outdated scheme — which doesn’t technically class as compensation, meaning those who are successful can still take legal action if they so choose — as failing to keep pace with the life-long injuries people are suffering.

Peter Todd of Scott-Moncrieff & Associates, who is representing some of the victims of the AstraZeneca jab, said it was an ‘anomaly’ someone could only get £120,000 for a type of injury that would get 100-times that in the courts.

‘It’s an anomaly that somebody with the same injury at the same severity could be awarded £20million,’ he said.

Mr Todd said the stress a lack of funds could put on a family put into this situation through no fault of their own couldn’t be underestimated.

‘If somebody like the main breadwinner in a family becomes disabled, or even a child becomes disabled, it creates a massive stress on the family,’ he said.

‘It can put strain on people’s marriages and they can break up.’

Mr Todd is also among those who say classifying the £120,000 sum as income for the vaccine-bereaved is harsh given their family member got a vaccine not only to protect their health, but the nation’s.

‘It’s pretty distasteful because that money is there because you have maybe lost your partner and are now having to cope on your own,’ he said.

‘In that situation people deserve a bit more generosity.’

While lawyers and campaigners are critical of the vaccine damage support scheme, they have been clear they are not anti-vax.

In fact, they say they want the scheme improved to help combat vaccine hesitancy in future, so people can get jabbed without worrying how they or their families will cope if something goes wrong.

While there have been almost 5,000 applicants to the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme, this pales in comparison to the number of Covid jabs dished out safely.

The latest data shows 151million doses of Covid vaccines, covering all brands, have been dished out over the course of the pandemic.

A government spokesperson said: ‘The Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme (VDPS) provides a one-off tax free payment of £120,000 to individuals where, in extremely rare circumstances, vaccination has caused severe disablement.

‘We have scaled up and modernised the operations of the VDPS to allow cases to be processed more quickly.

The graph shows the cumulative number of Covid jabs dished out in the UK since the pandemic began, the percentage of each age group which has had a jab (bottom left) and the number of each Covid vaccine brand dished out

The graph shows the cumulative number of Covid jabs dished out in the UK since the pandemic began, the percentage of each age group which has had a jab (bottom left) and the number of each Covid vaccine brand dished out

‘There is a range of other support, including financial, available to disabled people in the UK, for example, free healthcare, social care support and disability benefits.’

AstraZeneca said it is unable to comment on ongoing legal matters.

A spokesperson said: ‘Patient safety is our highest priority and regulatory authorities have clear and stringent standards to ensure the safe use of all medicines, including vaccines.

‘Our sympathy goes out to those who have lost loved ones or who have reported health problems.

‘AstraZeneca and regulatory authorities, carefully record and assess all reports of potential adverse events associated with use of Vaxzevria (the official name of the jab).

‘From the body of evidence in clinical trials and real-world data, Vaxzevria has continuously been shown to have an acceptable safety profile and regulators around the world consistently state that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks of extremely rare potential side effects.

‘The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) granted conditional marketing approval for Vaxzevria for the UK based on the safety profile and efficacy of the vaccine.’

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