The Federal government’s ‘no-fault COVID-19 Vaccine Claim Scheme’ received a warm response from business groups. This scheme was welcomed as it will allow them to play an important role in the vaccine rollout program. SMEs will also be provided protection under this scheme. Small business communities have been seeking government intervention and protection in case of vaccine rollout for a long time. The demands became more intense when PM Scott Morrison publicly said that the government will not provide indemnity for businesses making it clear that it’s up to them to mandate the vaccines or not.
The ‘no-fault COVID-19 Vaccine Claim Scheme’ was launched last Saturday. Greg Hunt, Australian Health and Aged Care Minister promised timely and quick compensation relief to Australians who face an adverse reaction to a TGA-approved COVID-19 vaccine as of September 6th. The scheme will be backdated to Feb 2021 to make everyone eligible for the claim. It will be administered by Services Australia and employees have to access the website to make a compensation claim. Guidance will be provided by TGA on what symptoms can be recognised as adverse reactions.
The scheme will cover the cost of injuries above $5,000 which implies that smaller losses will not be compensated. Claimants must be able to prove their cost claims which will be assessed by independent experts, and the level of compensation available will be decided on a case-by-case basis, based on their recommendations.
Hunt added, “Side effects, or adverse events, from COVID-19 vaccinations can occur, but most are mild and last no longer than a couple of days. Serious and life-threatening side effects are very rare, but it is important that we provide a safety net to support those affected,”. Health professionals will also be assured that the scheme will provide them protection as they play a crucial role in vaccination programs.
This will reduce the liabilities of small businesses, which are administering vaccines at workplaces. Incaseof an injury due to Covid-19 vaccines, the government will be paying the claims. Although the scheme has not been particularly formulated to support businesses, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that this will go a long way in ensuring that small businesses are able to recover eventually.
Andrew McKellar, Chief Executive, said that businesses raised concerns about indemnity arrangements to cover administration of COVID-19 vaccines. He suggested converting workplaces into vaccination hubs will be crucial in reaching reopening thresholds and assisting the booster shot program in 2022. McKellar stated that “The 80% vaccination threshold agreed to by the National Cabinet is an ambitious target. Businesses need all the available options to encourage people to get vaccinated.”
Paul Zahra, Australian Retailers Association chief said that under the purview of the legal risks associated with vaccine administration, employers are pinning their hopes on the federal government for leadership and guidance. This will play a key factor in finalising the workplace vaccination programmes by businesses which will further lead to improvements in take-up rates.
Jennifer Westacott, Business Council of Australia chief, expressed gratitude towards Minister Hunt for acting on the concerns of the medical, healthcare, business and insurance sectors. She said that this scheme will help in boosting employer’s confidence to implement vaccination programs, remove legal ambiguities and ensure employees’ protection to some extent.