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Christopher Chope is a former Minister, and is MP for Christchurch.

The Government accepted that Covid-19 vaccines might cause serious harm to some people when it decided to bring Covid-19 vaccine damage within the ambit of the existing Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme (the “VDPS”).

But ever since, it has been stalling on addressing those who have claimed. Not a single one of over 1,300 claims has yet been decided, not even those in which a coroner’s verdict has determined that the vaccine was the cause of death. It is intolerable that the Government is failing those people who did the right thing, were vaccinated, but then suffered serious harm or bereavement as a result.

I first raised the issue in Parliament last June, when I presented a Private Members’ Bill. This was briefly debated in September, when I called for an independent review of disablement caused by Covid-19 vaccines and better compensation arrangements for those who have suffered. Since then, I have received hundreds of emails, often with harrowing reports from the families and friends of those who tragically died or continue to suffer severe injury or life-changing consequences.

After a barren year, there is now some positive news to report. The Minister for Vaccines and Public Health, Maggie Throup, has confirmed that external assessors will begin assessing claims next week, on May 16. They are contracted to assess 1,800 claims in the first year. It is worth comparing the scale of this with the situation pre-Covid, when only 80 vaccine claims were being made each year.

Let us hope that the plight of vaccine damage victims will no longer be neglected. The Prime Minister said last summer to the wife of a fit 44 year old software engineer that her husband is “not a statistic and must not be ignored”. The man in question, Jamie Scott, spent 124 days in hospital following severe brain injury caused by the vaccine. The Health Department’s failure to act on the Prime Minister’s words is a political embarrassment.

The assumption must be that the policy of non-engagement on this issue was deliberate. Public health officials are keen to avoid scrutiny about the fact that the vaccines are not 100 per cent safe. The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has received more than 450,000 suspected adverse reaction reports under its Yellow Card scheme, with the first report dating back to 9 December 2020.

he truth about the vaccines not being absolutely safe is therefore out in the open. My argument to the Government is that being in denial about vaccine damage is undermining the very vaccine confidence which the Government has been trying to promote. The consequence of this is apparent from the declining take up of boosters.

At my meeting with the Minister, I asked her whether the Government agreed that some people had died as a direct result of having received Covid-19 vaccines. Much to my surprise, she could not answer that question, and requested more time in which to do so in writing. She promised such a response within 14 days, but told me this week that she will respond to me “shortly”.

This shows that the Government is really agonising over whether or not to admit that, for some, Covid-19 vaccines have had fatal consequences. This is all the more bizarre when the Yellow Card scheme refers to over 2,000 fatalities, the Office for National Statistics has confirmed a series of fatalities, and even the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine product information leaflet confirms fatal outcomes were observed.

Hopefully, the Government will now change its approach, be open and transparent about the facts and provide the necessary financial help to victims. The level and extent of that help is itself a further problematic issue. Currently, the scheme provides a lump sum of £120,000 for every case where the level of disablement is at least 60 per cent. I have raised with the Government the need to increase that sum (which was last revised in 2007) in line with inflation, reflecting increases to similar schemes. Payments under the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (“IIDB”), for example, have risen by 39 per cent since 2007.

There is also a problem with the arbitrary 60 per cent disablement threshold. The minimum threshold to trigger benefit entitlement under the IIDB is only 14 per cent with the benefit prorated according to the level of disability. Sadly, however, the Government has not yet given any indication of a willingness to revise the VDPS so that it is more sensitive to individual circumstances. While £120,000 will be more than those with less serious injuries require, for young people needing fulltime carers for life, the payments need to be far higher.

Now that we know the Government has no legislative plans on this subject for this Session, I hope that someone who is successful in the ballot for Private Members’ Bills will take up the cause. A new organisation called Vaccine Injured Bereaved UK has recently been formed to campaign for changes to the legislation. I support their call for a bespoke scheme to cover Covid-19 vaccine damage.

This is justified because the Government uniquely has given an indemnity to manufacturers against product liability thereby precluding most civil claims for compensation. Such a bespoke scheme would also be able to address the eligibility criteria, what evidence of causation is necessary, and what specific support the NHS should provide for those who have suffered and continue to do so.

It may be difficult for the Government to deliver a nuanced message about Covid-19 vaccines, especially when the Government put such intense pressure upon people to be vaccinated. Vaccine passports became the order of the day, even briefly becoming a condition of employment. Government messaging was designed to compel those who were vaccine hesitant into compliance.

Now that the truth is gradually emerging, not only about the risks for some from the vaccine, but also about the lack of efficacy, particularly of boosters, the public debate around this issue is becoming more lively. YouTube has suppressed official data and information which I have divulged in Parliament. Recently, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Wes Streeting, reportedly called me an “anti-science extremist”. Such insults are fortunately proving to be counterproductive, with ever more demands for the Government to be transparent.

There is now a clear opportunity for the Conservative Party to be on the side of those who have suffered for doing the right thing, even if the Labour Party continues to be in complete denial.