Adverse vaccine side effects expected to be ‘one in a million’
Kingston’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore says he wants the federal government to make it easier for people to get compensation if they experience adverse side effects from vaccination.
“At present in most of Canada except for Quebec, if you have an adverse event associated with immunization…. you have to get a lawyer and try to seek compensation through the legal system,” he explained.
Adverse side effects from vaccines are extremely rare, he said, with approximately 1.5 events per million. They can be as mild as an allergic reaction, or more significant including a temporary weakness or paralysis in the face called Bell’s palsy, or a radiating tingling sensation through the legs sometimes associated with the flu shot.
“Even that one in a million we think, should be compensated,” he said.
Public Health seeking policy of no-fault compensation
On Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health released a statement supporting a policy of no-fault compensation, ahead of the roll out of the new COVID-19 vaccine.
“We feel that if people come forward to get vaccinated, to protect their families, to protect themselves, and build the community’s immunity for COVID-19, if there were any unintended, unfavourable consequences of the vaccine, then they should be compensated for any of those,” he said.
Dr. Moore reiterated that all vaccines are safe, but that rarely someone does have an adverse outcome from a vaccine. “It may be a new symptom, a new sign, it may be brief and then resolve. Each vaccine is known to have some very rare side effects.”
He said KFL&A Public Health would like to see the federal and provincial governments establish a framework that allows people to report adverse reactions and have them transparently adjudicated by a third-party scientific body, circumventing the legal process.
“There should be a compensation system, automatic, so you don’t have to get a lawyer to try to sue the government or your doctor, or the healthcare system,” he said.
He said KFL&A Public Health, along with the Ontario Public Health Association, endorsed this policy to the provincial and federal governments in 2019.
“We didn’t find any traction on the issue at that time,” he said. With a new, highly-anticipated vaccine about to roll out across the country, Dr. Moore said now is the perfect time.
“Right now the policy is open at a federal level,” he said, calling it a “policy window.”
“I think the federal government should show leadership in this, help the provinces and support them with a process, and with funding given that this is a federal initiative. We hope it stays in place for all immunizations,” he added.
He said he thinks such a policy would help build trust and transparency in the immunization process.
Dr. Moore: COVID-19 vaccine is safe
Dr. Moore said that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe, but that he does expect more side effects to come to light as it rolls out on a national scale, beyond the 60,000-person trials completed so far.
“We haven’t been able to see — I haven’t, and I don’t think many of the decision-makers have — the complete scientific data. But the news that we’ve had has been very good. Typically when you only immunize 60,000 people you don’t get a full picture,” he said.
“That happens with all immunizations,” he added. “We don’t get a full idea until they’re rolled out at population level.”
“These rare side effects that we only detect once the immunization is given to millions of individuals, we believe anyone experiencing them should be compensated through a transparent, accountable means.”
He noted that Canada is the only G7 country that does not have this policy in place.
“We should have had it for previous immunizations and we should have it now,” he said.