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Op-Ed: Australian COVID vax compensation — Mixed garbled messages at the wrong time

The degree of resistance to vaccination is based on a tangle of messages about compensation and legal protection of the vaccinated.

The vaccines currently available in the United States are effective at preventing COVID-19, and are important tools to stop the pandemic. Image - courtesy of the CDC./ Public domain
The vaccines currently available in the United States are effective at preventing COVID-19, and are important tools to stop the pandemic. Image - courtesy of the CDC./ Public domain

Wading through the possibilities of COVID vaccine compensation in Australia is like swimming through cement. As the Delta variant infuriates Sydney and the rest of the country, the current information is a horrible mix of maybes. This mess is happening just when we need people to have faith in the vaccination process and legal safeguards.

The information available has, thankfully, been put into a coherent form by Mondaq.com Australia. It seems that a “no-fault” scheme is being put in place similar to other countries. That means compensation is payable without liabilities to providers of vaccination services and manufacturers.

The problem

The degree of resistance to vaccination is based on a tangle of messages about compensation and legal protection of the vaccinated.

Consider this logic:

  • The vaccine is said to be overwhelmingly safe.
  • Nobody wants to accept liability.
  • The onus of proof is on the claimants.
  • Medical costs without compensation are likely to be horrific in serious cases.
  • Join dots.

It’s a godawful look. Older people don’t necessarily take anything on trust. Particularly when the suppliers of any product, vax or vacuum cleaner, are backing away from liability.

Most Australians (about 94% last time anyone looked) are happy to ignore the anti-vax nuts. Most of the country is as vaccinated as it can be for other diseases.

Everyone knows some vaccinations can have side effects. Dud batches, contamination, etc. aren’t exactly news. (I had a flu jab years ago with some rather grim moments.)

The COVID vaccine, however, has some potentially unpleasant side effects, including some fatalities.  So sending an utterly opaque message about compensation is hardly a triumph of basic communication.

As Sydney settles down for another 4 weeks of lockdown (it’s a desert out there) maybe more can be done? The compensation thing must be settled, ASAP.

Side effects – Why?

OK, these are new vaccines. OK, they had to be developed fast. It continues to make very little sense that the side effects aren’t being eliminated from the equation. They’re a massive disincentive to vaccination, rare as they may be.

Overhyped as the risks may be, they’re real enough to dissuade people from getting vaccinated. That’s a huge own goal for the immunization campaign.

Can we get over this, please, immediately? Nobody needs the degree of doubt this situation is inflicting on the world. Australia has become the bunnykins for no good reason on this issue. It’s embarrassing and achieving nothing all too literally.    

Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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