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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 March, 2005, 19:58 GMT
3.5m paid out in vaccine damages
Image of a girl receiving MMR
Some 35 payouts have been made in the last seven years
The government has paid out 3.5m to patients left disabled by vaccinations since 1997, it has been revealed.

Since then, any claimant who is successful in their claim has received a tax-free lump sum of 100,000.

Thirty-five such payments have been made, the Department of Work and Pensions said, but could not reveal which jabs were involved in the claims.

The figure was revealed to the Evening Standard newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act.

It was also revealed that a total of 917 payments have been made since the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme was introduced in 1979.

However, the DWP said it did not have any information on which types of vaccination were involved in the compensation payments. It said no such records were kept.

Vaccine damage payments are one-off payments to people who are able to prove that they were severely disabled as a result of a vaccination.

Claims

Many thousands more claims are likely to have been made under the scheme but were unsuccessful.

It covers vaccinations for illnesses such as tetanus, measles, tuberculosis and meningitis C.

The childhood vaccination programme has prompted controversy in recent years, mainly centred around the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab.

Some scientists have suggested the jab may be linked to autism and bowel disease.

However, no research has ever proved a link, and the overwhelming majority of experts believe the vaccine is safe.

A subsequent increase in measles outbreaks has been blamed directly on the MMR scare.

Diseases

A DWP spokeswoman said: "Immunisation is one of the most important weapons for protecting individuals and the community from serious diseases.

"In the rare case where there is a severe adverse reaction to a vaccine nothing can make up for the suffering of the families whose children have suffered.

"The government supports those children who were damaged by vaccinations with a payment to ease the extra costs incurred as a result.

"That's why we have increased the Vaccine Damage Payment to 100,000 and paid top-up payments to previous recipients to bring the real-term value of their payment up to the new level."

The spokeswoman said information about applying for a payment was available on their website www.dwp.gov.uk.

Isabella Thomas, of campaign group Jabs, welcomed the release of the information but said more openness was needed.

"Why can't we have information about exactly what the vaccinations were?

"That happens in the US. Unless the government is fully open about this parents will never have confidence in vaccinations."


SEE ALSO:
Q&A: The MMR debate
10 Sep 04 |  Health


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