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Canada's Vaccine Injury Support program: 400 claims since launch, fewer than five approved

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Canada's national vaccine injury compensation program has released new numbers revealing how many Canadians have reported severe adverse reactions from a Health Canada-authorized COVID-19 vaccine and requested compensation.

The Vaccine Injury Support Program was first announced in December 2020 and officially launched in June 2021. While serious reactions to vaccines are extremely rare -- approximately one in 10,000, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) -- they have happened.

Since its launch in June until Nov. 30, 2021, the program received 400 claims of COVID-19 vaccine-related injury, and fewer than five have been approved.

According to the figures released Thursday, 387 of those claims have been assigned a case manager and 64 are inadmissible, meaning they do not meet the eligibility criteria or are unable to move forward in the process due to incomplete information, while 323 have been deemed admissible.

In terms of what constitutes a severe or permanent injury, PHAC says patients must have experienced “life-threatening or life-altering injuries that may require in-person hospitalization, or a prolongation of existing hospitalization, and results in persistent or significant disability or incapacity, or where the outcome is a congenital malformation or death.”

In addition, those filing a claim had to have experienced this serious and permanent injury after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in Canada on or after Dec. 8, 2020.

Of the admissible claims, 127 are pending preliminary medical review by a physician to determine if additional medical records are required, and 196 claims have had their preliminary medical review completed.

In cases where the medical review is completed, a physician then proceeds to collect additional medical records, as is now happening for 189 claims.

The program notes that this is the "longest step" in the claims adjustment process as claimants are first contacted to provide their consent for the retrieval of these medical records from their health-care providers. Following that, each health-care provider is then contacted individually for the relevant records.

Of these claims, five are considered complete and are awaiting review by the Medical Review Board. According to PHAC, the board is made up of physicians with relevant experience who will determine if there is an association between the injury and the vaccine.

The program, which is administered by RCGT Consulting on behalf of PHAC, reports that fewer than five claims have been assessed and approved by the Medical Review Board.

However, depending on the circumstance, PHAC noted that the Medical Review Board may decide that more information or time is required to properly assess some claims.

Dr. Kumanan Wilson of The Ottawa Hospital told CTV News that obtaining the necessary medical records requires time. However, he says as more claims make it to the board for review, more people will likely be compensated.

"It's quite possible more claims will be awarded compensation after the full records and assessment are completed," Wilson said.

Wilson said he is hopeful that the process will "fairly compensate" those who suffer adverse events from COVID-19 vaccination.

"I'm encouraged that a process is underway and we expect it to be iterative and evolve," he said.

If a probable link between the injury and the vaccine is determined, the program says the amount of financial support provided will be determined on a case-by-case basis, but compensation will be retroactive from the date of the injury or death.

Due to privacy reasons, PHAC says the amount of compensation paid to Canadians will not be disclosed until a "sufficient number of cases ensures anonymity of claimants."

PHAC said it will provide an update on these numbers by June 1, 2022.

As of Dec. 3, there have been 28,825 reports of adverse events in Canada following immunization from a COVID-19 vaccine, representing 0.047 per cent of all doses administered. Of those, 6,581 were considered serious, representing 0.011 per cent of all doses.

According to CTVNews.ca's vaccination tracker, Canada has administered 63,882,150 vaccine doses as of Wednesday evening and over 80 per cent of the eligible population – those aged five and older – are fully vaccinated.

With a file from CTV News' medial correspondent Avis Favaro

Correction

A previous version of this article stated that the risk of contracting a serious side-effect after COVID-19 vaccination is less than one in a million. The correct figure, based on data reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada, is roughly one in 10,000.

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