SA to establish fund protecting pharma companies from Covid-19 vaccine liability

By S’thembile Cele

(Bloomberg) – South Africa published draft regulations to establish a new fund that will protect pharmaceutical companies from all liability arising from the use of coronavirus vaccines, addressing a key demand made by Johnson & Johnson and other suppliers.

The regulations on the Covid-19 Vaccine Injury No-Fault Compensation Scheme, released by the Department of Health on Thursday, propose the establishment of a panel led by a retired judge and other experts to adjudicate vaccine-related claims. The finance minister will issue regulations setting out how much compensation will be paid. Claims may not be filed in court until they have been processed by the panel, but its rulings may be appealed.

The government has faced widespread criticism for being slow to procure vaccines, with just 292,623 people inoculated with the J&J shot so far. On Wednesday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told lawmakers delays were partly attributable to manufacturers making “unreasonable demands” on the government to ensure their interests were safeguarded.

The regulations clearly state that the South African government will bear liability for all vaccine-related claims, and the manufacturers will be granted indemnity under procurement agreements. Comments on the new rules can be submitted by April 19.

(Updates with details of how fund will operate in second paragraph.)

-With assistance from Antony Sguazzin.

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