In a path-breaking move, the The World Health Organization has brought in a “”no-fault compensation” programme on Covid-19 vaccines.

This is the first and only global vaccine injury compensation mechanism, the WHO said, of the programme that makes compensation available to eligible individuals in 92 low- and middle-income countries without the need to resort to law courts. India too falls in this bracket.

The WHO has signed an agreement with a Chubb Limited company - ESIS Inc, towards this. And the programme would be funded by a small levy on each dose supported by the vaccine alliance, Gavi COVAX AMC (Advance Market Commitment), a WHO note said.

The agreement comes even as vaccine majors seek, and are given, indemnity in different countries as they roll-out their vaccines, to protect them from litigation. In India too, Serum Institute chief had made a similar plea for indemnity. Serum supplies to Covax, but did not comment on the WHO’s vaccine injury compensation programme.

In a separate incident, a clinical trial volunteer who received Serum’s (AstraZeneca-OxfordUniversity) vaccine recently approached the Madras High Court for compensation, after he experienced serious adverse events.

Public health campaigners have been calling for a “no-fault compensation” mechanism, but it is unclear how this programme will handle a vaccine roll-out in the “clinical trial mode”, which is how the emergency approval was given to Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. Presently, the vaccine is not yet part of WHO’s Covax supplies to economically weaker countries.

Fair and transparent

Explaining the vaccine injury compensation mechanism, the WHO said, the programme will offer eligible individuals in AMC-eligible countries “a fast, fair, robust and transparent process to receive compensation for rare but serious adverse events associated with COVAX-distributed vaccines until 30 June 2022”.

“By providing a no-fault lump-sum compensation in full and final settlement of any claims, the COVAX programme aims to significantly reduce the need for recourse to the law courts, a potentially lengthy and costly process,” the note explained.

While details on the compensation amount etc have not been outlined, the note said, ESIS was selected as the independent administrator of the programme and it would take no fees from the applicants. Chubb is the world's largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company.

Adverse reactions

All vaccines procured or distributed through the WHO-supported COVAX Facility have received regulatory approval or an emergency use authorization to confirm their safety and efficacy, the WHO said. “But, as with all medicines, even vaccines that are approved for general use may, in rare cases, cause serious adverse reactions.”

The COVAX no-fault compensation programme will be operationalized through its web portal ( by 31 March 2021, the note said and it would include resources such as the programme’s protocol and information on how to submit an application. Individuals can apply though the portal, even if they had received a COVAX-distributed vaccine before 31 March 2021.

The fastest and largest delivery of novel vaccine in history, Covax expects to deliver at least 2 billion doses by end 2021, including 1.3 billion doses to 92 AMC-eligible countries and economies.