Medicines agency struggling to process vaccine damages claims

Vaccination. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

People have been able to seek compensation for coronavirus vaccine-related health damages in Estonia since last May. Relevant decisions are up to the State Agency of Medicines (Ravimiaemt) but the body has fallen behind in processing claims. While the agency has hired more experts, a fifth of claims are past due.

The compensation mechanism for vaccine damages was created during the coronavirus pandemic, and people who have suffered serious health damage as a result of vaccination can apply for compensation.

The law states a decision needs to be made within five months, while the State Agency of Medicines, which is in charge of the process, is having trouble sticking to the deadline.

"Because there has been no such system in Estonia before, it was very difficult to predict how many such applications we would receive. /.../ We based our labor estimates on notifications of serious side-effects the agency received," said Ott Laius, deputy head of the State Agency of Medicines.

Because the number of applications has been greater than estimates suggested, the agency soon found itself strapped for time and forced to find new appraisers. But finding new experts has been difficult, as the work is complicated and requires a medical degree. Every decision needs to be evaluated by two people.

The agency is currently processing 260 applications 46 of which are already past due. Two people have been waiting for their decisions for over five months.

"We have a couple of cases that are quite late now. These are complex cases we have forwarded to outside experts, and it takes time to receive their expert opinions," Laius said.

Around 1,700 claims for damages have been filed of which 574 have been rejected, while 62 have been deemed possible causes of health problems.

"The main diagnoses we are seeing are [related to the] nervous system, muscular and bone system, connective tissue, circulation and skin conditions," said Pille Banhard, member of the board of the Health Insurance Fund.

"So-called moderate severity health problems are the most numerous at 51 cases of compensation paid," she added.

These fetch a compensation payment of €2,000, while a serious health problem is deemed worth €10,000. The State Agency of Medicines has not found a single case of fatal vaccine side effects.

Around one hundred people have challenged the agency's decisions of whom three have been paid compensation later. Twelve people have turned to court.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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