In a Journal of the American Medical Association article, Professor Sam Halabi argued that a global vaccine injury compensation system administered through the World Health Organization may address barriers to vaccine access during public health emergencies like Ebola, H1N1 and Zika. Even though promising vaccines have been developed relatively quickly for these emergencies, the concern for liability arising from side effects has impeded access, especially for poor countries.
The H1N1 vaccine, for example, was delayed by five months or more in some low-resource countries due in part to this issue, Halabi said.
For most vaccines, the chances of having an adverse reaction are slim. The question that results is “Who’s going to pay for those who have those adverse reactions?” Currently the United States has a nationwide vaccine injury fund through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Professor Halabi and his co-author, Saad B. Omer, Professor of Global Health, Epidemiology and Pediatrics at Emory University, propose a similar system to be administered by the World Health Organization.
Additionally they advocate a “no-fault system,” which would protect individuals through a centralized fund and prevent manufacturers from facing litigation, therefore encouraging them to supply a wide distribution.
“We know that vaccines are very safe and effective, but vaccine injury does occur,” Halabi said. “Who pays for those injured can become a point of contention. That’s a life-and-death issue, especially when countries are amidst a public health crisis.”