Over three years and three phases, the team from the Faculty of Law will create an online database that will allow researchers to compare the compensation schemes. They will then be able to populate the database with more detailed data on, for example, the amounts paid by each scheme, the criteria for claims, claim timeframes and success rates.
It is hoped that this data will prove to be a resource for academics, governments and vaccine manufacturers to analyse, potentially providing evidence-based support for the design and implementation of NFC systems in future pandemic situations. The final phase will evaluate the impact of the schemes in different countries and settings.
Dr Sonia Macleod, Researcher in Civil Justice Systems at the Faculty’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies and the project’s principal researcher, said:
‘The pandemic drove the rapid creation of NFCS coverage. This coverage isn’t evenly distributed globally, and it can be difficult to find information on these schemes.
‘We have mapped the world-wide distribution outlining what provision is in place where. This website will enable affected individuals who want to make a claim, governments, policy professionals and academics to see what is available in their country and how it compares to other nations.’
With the first phase focusing on the database’s creation already complete, the researchers found that at least 146 countries operated an NFCS related to COVID-19 vaccines. In January 2020, around the start of the pandemic, there were only 26 in existence.
Three multinational compensation schemes, from the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), COVAX and UNICEF, cover 98 low- and middle-income countries. The UK introduced its own scheme through the Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979, which covers vaccinations for, among others, tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough and was expanded to cover COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic.
Dr Macleod added:
‘Simply creating a NFCS is not enough; a scheme that no one knows about or that doesn’t function well is not delivering for injured individuals. In contrast, a properly designed well-functioning scheme can both provide redress and collect valuable information that can be used to inform our responses to pandemics.
'Our next research focus is finding out if people are using these schemes and what difference the schemes are making.’
The research was funded by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) to investigate the provision and function of these NFCSs.