COVID-19 vaccine makers not legally liable in Canada for rare side effects

OTTAWA – The federal government says Pfizer and other drug makers won’t be held legally liable if there are severe side effects to their COVID-19 vaccines.

Just last week, Health Canada cited contract confidentiality in refusing to tell us if any drug makers received indemnification for their vaccines, meaning they wouldn’t be held legally responsible in the very rare scenario that a vaccine causes injury or a severe reaction.

However, on Monday, as the first shots were administered after arriving in Canada on Sunday, Procurement Minister Anita Anand made the confirmation.

“We are definitely not any different than any other country in this world,” she explained.

“Let’s be clear that indemnification clauses in vaccine contracts are standard. All countries, generally speaking, are faced with the issue.”

She added that’s why the Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund was set up. Through the fund, the federal government would foot the costs and provide financial support to people should the worst case scenario play out.

“If there is an issue at all with the technology in these novel vaccines, that they do have access to a regime that aims to protect them,” Anand explained.

Canada is the last G7 country to set up such a fund.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau only offered vague assurances when he was asked about the issue last week.

“The contract’s signed. There was questions for liability and Canada has undertaken the necessary measures to ensure that everyone is protected,” he said, stressing the government would not approve a vaccine unless it’s safe.

“Health Canada has one of the most rigorous approval processes in the world,” he added.

Canada approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in this country on Dec. 9. The first shipment arrived in Montreal on Sunday night.

Since the COVID-19 vaccines have to be stored at extremely low temperatures, Anand also confirmed Monday Ottawa has signed new deals with five Canadian companies to supply dry ice to help transport the shots, which have to be stored at extremely low temperatures.

Meanwhile, $485 million in funding has been announced to help developing countries get access to treatments for the virus.

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