A STATE-APPOINTED group charged with drafting a compensation scheme for vaccine-damaged children is seeking submissions from the public and interested groups on the issue.
The Vaccine Damage Steering Group was established by the Department of Health and Children earlier this year. Five years ago the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children recommended that a no-fault compensation scheme be established for the "small number of children" who experienced serious reactions to vaccinations.
Members of the Vaccine Damage Steering Group include representatives from the Department of Health and Children, the Health Service Executive, the Irish Medicines Board and the State Claims Agency.
Fine Gael’s Denis Naughton is delighted that the first step has finally been taken to support vaccine- damaged children.
"It is about time that we lived up to the moral responsibility of taking care of those who were damaged by State-promoted vaccination programmes rather than trying to hide them away in a dark corner," he said.
He hoped the public consultation process would lead to the introduction, in the near future, of a system that supported rather than ignored some of the most vulnerable people in society.
"This is the first positive step taken to support vaccine-damaged children in over 25 years and it will hopefully lead to the provision of proper support services for these people, many of whom are now adults, and their elderly parents," said Mr Naughton, who pointed out that the British government had already established a no-fault compensation scheme for children damaged by State vaccination programmes.
"While the Irish Government did offer a once-off ex-gratia payment of £10,000 (€12,700) to 16 parents of vaccine-damaged children in 1982 and 1984, this is totally inadequate for the long-term needs of children who were literally damaged by the State itself," he pointed out.
Mr Naughton said that in one of the 16 cases acknowledged by the State, the parents planned to sue the State and manufacturers.
"After waiting years for their legal team to instigate proceedings, the family was devastated when told before Christmas that their legal team is not prepared to go through with the case."
He pointed out that the legal route was the last avenue left open to the family to ensure that their severely disabled son would be adequately provided for should anything happen to his elderly parents. "Why should parents have to face another year with such uncertainty due to the lack of progress by a Government department?" he asked.
Closing date for receipt of submissions is August 10.