Covid-19 vaccination in Switzerland: Who is liable for severe side effects?

Covid-19 vaccination in Switzerland: Who is liable for severe side effects?
Severe side effects from there Covid vaccine are rare. Photo by AFP
Serious side effects following vaccinations, including the coronavirus one, are rare. But if they do happen, who in Switzerland will be held liable?

In the event of acute reactions caused by the vaccine, the manufacturer, the person who administers the vaccine, or the Swiss government may be held responsible, depending on circumstances, according to a bulletin published by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) on Monday .

FOPH defined “serious damage” as the one “leading to significant health or economic effects for the vaccinated person. Temporary or lasting incapacity for work, for example, constitutes serious damage”.

On the other hand, minor side effects like redness or swelling caused by injection, headache, muscle pain, or slight fever, all of which are normal temporary reactions to any vaccine, are not considered to be severe.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Five questions about Covid-19 vaccines in Switzerland

The liability will depend on who inflicts the damage, FOPH said. There are three possible scenarios:

Defective product

The manufacturer — in this case, Pfizer/BioNtech or Moderna — will be held liable if the product is found to be defective and the person suffers serious side effects, assuming the vaccine is used as intended.

The person who administers the vaccine

The practitioner's ‘duty of care’ covers the correct inoculation process. But if the vaccine is not given as it should be, resulting in significant damage to the patient, then the vaccination centre or the person administering the vaccine can be held responsible.

The government

If a grave side effect occurs but can’t be attributed to either the manufacturer or the provider, and if the damage resulting from the vaccination is not fully covered by insurance, then the federal government can grant compensation to the victim in the amount of up to 70,000 francs.

However, the fact that health authorities are recommending the vaccine doesn’t in itself imply their responsibility for any damages, FOPH stressed.

READ MORE: Swiss authorities dismiss claim woman died due to vaccination


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