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Navigating the Federal Vaccine Injury Support Program

August 18, 2021

Author: Fiona Balaton

In June 2021 the Federal Government began accepting applications for its Vaccine Injury Support Program (VISP). This blog discusses the new program and examines its eligibility criteria and application process. 

The success of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout has been instrumental in the fight against COVID-19 and has provided hope for an eventual return to normal life. The Public Health Agency of Canada currently reports that 81% of Canadians aged 12 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 68% of Canadians ages 12 and over are fully vaccinated. While current vaccine compliance rates are encouraging, vaccine hesitancy among eligible Canadians persists, in part due to safety concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines. As is true of any vaccine, a small number of COVID-19 vaccine-related injuries will occur, and indeed several have been reported to date. 

In December 2020, ahead of the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out, the Canadian federal government announced a national no-fault vaccine injury support program for all Health Canada approved vaccines. Vaccine-related injury compensation schemes have been used with some success in other jurisdictions, such as Quebec and the US, and could be a useful tool in terms of both compensating vaccine-related injuries and promoting vaccine compliance.

In June 2021 the VISP online application became available to all Canadians. The purpose of the VISP is “to ensure that all people in Canada who have experienced a serious and permanent injury as a result of receiving a Health Canada authorized vaccine, administered in Canada on or after December 8, 2020, have fair and timely access to financial support.” However, in reality, the process could prove difficult to access or navigate for some people. 

Which Vaccines are covered under the Vaccine Injury Support Program?

All current and future Health Canada authorized vaccines or immunoglobulins that provide protection from preventable infectious disease, administered in Canada on or after December 8, 2020, will be covered under the VISP.

Vaccine Injury Support Program Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for compensation under VISP, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • The vaccine must be authorized by Health Canada;
  • The date of vaccination was on or after December 8, 2020;
  • The vaccine was administered in Canada;
  • The injury was reported to a health care provider; and
  • The injury is serious and permanent or has resulted in death.

A serious and permanent injury is defined as a severe, life-threatening or life-altering injury 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. 

Claims can be filed 3 years after the date of vaccination, date of death or date when an injury first becomes apparent. Applications may be made by the injured party, or on their behalf by an authorized representative.

The Vaccine Injury Support Program Claims Process

Applicants or authorized representatives in conjunction with the Physician who assessed the injury will be required to provide significant medical documentation including:

  • Physician contact information
  • Patient contact information
  • Details specific to the vaccine
  • The report of the first medical consultation
  • Patient medical history

Once all supporting documentation is submitted an independent committee comprised of three physicians will review claimants’ medical records to determine if a probable link exists between the injury and the vaccine. If there is a probable link, these medical experts will also assess the severity and duration of the injury. This information will be used to determine the types and levels of financial support awarded to the individual or their survivor(s).

The VISP website provides that timelines for a determination of eligibility and support will depend on the nature and complexity of the claim. 

Compensation amounts are determined on a case-by-case basis. The VISP website indicates that amounts will be based on a pre-determined financial support payment framework designed to align with compensation provided under the Québec Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and informed by other public and private sector injury compensation practices.

Our Health Law Specialists or Employment Law Group can help you navigate

The new Federal VISP program may provide compensation to those who have sustained provable vaccine-related injuries and may provide the additional benefit of encouraging vaccine compliance. However, the claims process is onerous, lengthy, and may be difficult to navigate. The eligibility threshold of a “serious and permanent injury” may be a limiting factor making compensation unlikely in most cases. The claimant must also provide a significant amount of medical documentation which can be a difficult process in and of itself. As well, actual compensatory amounts and timelines for processing are vague at this stage.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has brought vaccine-related legal issues to the forefront for many individuals and businesses. If you would like more information on how to navigate the VISP, or if you would like to discuss any other vaccine-related legal matters, please contact any of our Health Law Specialists, or a member of the Carbert Waite Employment Law Group