With only 45% of claims processed so far, more than NT$153 million has already been paid out to those injured by the COVID shots, more than the NT$129.6 million paid to victims of injury from all vaccines combined in the previous 30 years, it was revealed yesterday when Taiwan’s CDC responded to criticism by the opposition party legislative caucus.
At a press conference yesterday, September 6, the opposition party Kuomintang (KMT) urged the government to expedite the review process for COVID-19 vaccine injury compensation.
KMT caucus leader, Tseng Ming-tsung, said three major issues were holding up resolution of cases: complexity of procedures, lengthy processing times, and difficulty in determining causality.
Tseng Ming-tsung mentioned that the first issue is the complexity of procedures, requiring victims to continually provide additional information. The second issue is the lengthy processing time, with a maximum of 9 months for review, but cases often taking much longer, even up to 2 or 3 years. The third issue is the difficulty in determining causality. Out of 3,271 cases processed so far, only 123 cases or 3.7% were judged to have a causal link to the vaccine, while the rest were judged not to have a causal relationship and were therefore ineligible for compensation.
Secretary-general of the KMT caucus, Hsieh Yimin, said that according to statistics from the Food and Drug Administration, between March 2021 and July this year, there were a total of 21,208 adverse reactions reported following the COVID-19 vaccination. However, statistics from the VICP show a total of 9,101 cases in the last three years. As of July there have been 7,741 applications under the Vaccination Injury Compensation Program, therefore not all vaccine victims have applied for compensation.
Lawyer, Weng Yiyin, said that he and his mother were both victims of adverse reactions to vaccination, so they had decided to stand on the front lines and help the victims with free legal advice to apply for compensation. Weng said that victims and their families have been waiting more than a year on average for a review of their cases. “We hope the government can empathize with the victims,” Weng said.
Zeng Wanlin, a victim of an adverse reaction caused by the AZ vaccine, said that after the vaccination, her lower limbs swelled, and she was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with a lower limb venous thrombosis. She was hospitalized for 3 days and had to take anticoagulants for a long time. A year later, the thrombus fell off and flowed into the lungs, compressing the heart. Pulmonary embolism and heart failure occurred. She was hospitalized and issued a critical illness notice. At present, she can only take long term medicine to control the condition. The doctor issued a diagnosis of being unable to work for life.
Zeng Wanlin said that it has been more than a year since she applied for vaccination victim relief, but so far there has been no progress at all.
In response to the criticism, the spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Tseng Shu-hui, mentioned that the vaccine injury review committee is composed of experts who review complete medical records and examination results for cases of injury or death resulting from vaccine administration. They use objective criteria to assess the relationship between the case and the vaccination when considering compensation.
Tseng Shu-hui also noted that the increase in COVID-19 vaccine-related compensation claims since 2021 has overwhelmed the review panel and local health authorities, leading to longer processing times. To expedite the review process, medical experts have been invited to assist in assessments, and the frequency of review panel meetings and the number of cases reviewed have been increased.
In 2023, an average of 235 cases are reviewed each month, compared to an average of 13 cases per month in 2020, representing nearly an 18-fold increase. Despite the higher case volume, the review panel still meticulously examines each case, considering medical evidence and adhering to established procedures, making it a challenging task for the expert members of the panel.
Furthermore, Tseng Shu-hui explained that for cases where the review panel determines a “related” condition to the vaccine, compensation is granted. Even in cases where the causal relationship is deemed “unconfirmed,” compensation can still be provided, indicating a lenient approach within the system. When determining the amount of compensation for individual cases, the review panel takes a generous stance in favor of suspected victims.
Currently, the total compensation and subsidies for COVID-19 vaccine injuries amount to NT$153,025,000, surpassing the total compensation and subsidies for all types of vaccines in the past 30 years (from 1989 to 2020), which amounted to NT$129,625,000.
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