Less than 50 payments have been made to compensate Australians who have had adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines, representing a miniscule percentage of the total number of doses administered.
Government Services Minister Bill Shorten seized upon the figures to criticise “fringe operators who spread misinformation” about COVID vaccines.
As of September 7, Services Australia had paid just 46 claims under the vaccine claims scheme. This represents just 1.6 per cent of the 2833 claims received, or 0.00007 per cent of the vaccines administered in Australia.
A further 23 claims have resulted in an offer of payment, although these have not yet been accepted.
The then-Morrison government last year agreed to lower the threshold from $5000 to $1000 for people to be paid for money spent treating adverse reactions as part of a deal with Liberal senator Gerard Rennick after he threatened to withhold his support from legislation over state-based vaccine mandates.
The scheme – which has so far paid out a total of $3.4 million – provides a no-fault patient compensation payment in cases of moderate to severe adverse reactions from COVID vaccines.
Rennick and One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts have for months been asking Services Australia to release the data on payments made under the scheme.
Shorten said the figures showed the vaccines were overwhelmingly safe and hit out at people trying to spread fear in the community.
“Safe and effective vaccines are scientifically proven to be the best way to prevent against death, hospitalisation and severe illness as a result of COVID-19 infection,” he said.
“I have no time for fringe operators who spread misinformation and prey on people’s fears and anxieties for cynical political purposes.”
Rennick has repeatedly suggested COVID-19 vaccines are not safe, including questioning whether they were behind a rise in diabetes and dementia.
“Diabetes A is an autoimmune disease. The COVID vaccine induces an autoimmune response. Why aren’t alarm bells ringing?” Rennick said last month.
An organisation called AusVaxSafety monitors adverse side effects following immunisation with influenza vaccines. Out of its 6.6 million surveys, 44.2 per cent reported at least one adverse event following a COVID vaccine, while 0.9 per cent reported having to visit a doctor or emergency department.
Professor Robert Booy, an infectious diseases paediatrician at the University of Sydney, said it was important that Australians who feel side effects from vaccines report it within the first few days.
“The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has been carefully assessing serious side effects that may be related to vaccination based not only on Australia data but international data,” he said.
“It has been reassuring over the past one-and-a-half years to see that the new vaccines developed have been well tolerated and the initial concern about the new vaccines has abated with their use in many, many millions of people.
“We should continue to follow-up people who report side effects which they think might be related to vaccination – both immediate and long-term side effects.”