Call to speed review of vaccine payouts

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The Government has come under intense backbench pressure to publish its review into the compensation scheme for children permanently damaged during public vaccinationprogrammes.

The Government has come under intense backbench pressure to publish its review into the compensation scheme for children permanently damaged during public vaccinationprogrammes.

MPs used a short backbench debate in the Commons yesterday to demand that the review of the scheme be accelerated so families affected could be properly compensated. A small number of babies has suffered mental and physical disability after vaccinations against childhood diseases such as polio, whooping cough and measles. In 1979, a scheme to compensate their families was set up, but campaigners now claim the scheme is inadequate and has left families suffering financial hardship.

But Hugh Bayley, a Social Security minister, failed to give a date, although he expressed regret that the review had not been concluded early. Hinting at financial difficulties, he added: "I can confirm that when that announcement is made, that announcement will be made with the full agreement of the Treasury."

Speaking during the debate, Ian Stewart, the chairman of the all-party group into the vaccine damage payment scheme, and Labour MP for Eccles, said the 1979 Act needed urgent review.

"The Government will only save the vaccination programmes if people are confident that in cases where things go wrong there is adequate financial support," he said.

"I want fair support and compensation for these children and their families and positive reform of the vaccine damage payment scheme."

By June 1998, 890 payments had been made from a total of 4,000 claims. A victim must be 80 per cent disabled to qualify and even then, most received only £10,000. "There is no justice or fairness in such a system," Mr Stewart said.

Families who campaigned on the issue wanted substantial lump-sum payments, a tapering of the 80 per cent disability limit and removal of the six-year limit on making claims.

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