On December 10, 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Public Health Agency of Canada would be implementing a pan-Canadian no-fault Vaccine Injury Support Program (VISP). The program officially launched on June 1, 2021.
These types of programs are not new. In the 1980s, the United States established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Quebec has had a provincial version in place since 1987. In fact, Canada was the only G7 country without such a national program. So, while the program is new to most Canadians, versions of it have been around for many years.
The benefit of the program is that it is a “no-fault” system. This means that you are not required to establish that someone was negligent in administering the vaccination and therefore responsible to compensate you (as you would be if you brought a civil lawsuit). However, there are a number of eligibility requirements, which include:
• the vaccine was authorized by Health Canada;
• the vaccine was administered in Canada;
• the vaccine was administered on or after December 8, 2020;
• you suffered a “serious and permanent injury”; and
• you can establish a “probable link” between administration of the vaccine and your injury/impairments (aka causation)
The program defines “serious and permanent injury” as a severe, life-threatening or life-altering injury that may require in-person hospitalization, or a prolongation of existing hospitalization and results in persistent or significant disability or incapacity, or where the outcome is a congenital malformation or death. While it is unclear at this stage what is meant by “severe”, “life-altering injury”, or “persistent or significant disability” and how those terms will be interpreted, it is apparent that the government has tried to set a high bar. One can expect that meeting this particular criteria will not be easy.
The decision as to whether or not someone meets all of the eligibility requirements will be made by a committee of three physicians. If you are denied, there is an appeal process. The appeal will be heard by a committee of physicians that is different than those who made the initial determination.
If you are deemed eligible, the types of compensation available include injury indemnities (likely akin to general damages in the civil litigation context), income replacement indemnities, death benefits, funeral expenses and reimbursement of eligible costs such as otherwise uncovered medical expenses.
The program states it will permit “fair and timely access to financial support”; however, it fails to provide a timeline or any time frame by which decisions will be made.
Ultimately, the program is in its infancy and many details are yet to be established, provided or worked out. Nevertheless, the program was a long-time coming and brings Canada up to speed with many other countries.
Legal representation is not required to access the program. However, there will ultimately be barriers or challenges for those trying to access it, including having to establish “serious and permanent injury” and causation. These are the same criteria plaintiffs must establish when they bring personal injury law suits. As such, consulting a lawyer who has experience in this field would be beneficial.
About the Authors
A born-and-raised Barrie resident, Karen knows and loves her community. She is proud to be a partner in one of Canada’s most successful personal injury law firms—right in her own backyard. Karen joined Oatley Vigmond in 2013 as an associate lawyer. She holds a BA from Queen’s University and her Juris Doctor from Bond University in Australia. Prior to being called to the Bar in January 2013, Karen articled at a well-known personal injury law firm in Toronto.