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Covid-19 no-fault compensation fund set up to protect vaccinated citizens

14 April 2021 - 14:12 By amanda khoza
Retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo has been appointed to head the no-fault compensation (NFC) fund. File photo.
Retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo has been appointed to head the no-fault compensation (NFC) fund. File photo.
Image: Sandile Ngcobo/The Times/Times Media Digital Archive

The national coronavirus command council (NCCC) has approved the recommendation to establish the no-fault compensation (NFC) fund to protect the rights of citizens who will be vaccinated.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday announced in parliament that retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo has been appointed to head the scheme which has to be established as a precondition made by Johnson & Johnson (J&J). It is understood vaccine manufacturer Pfizer has made a similar request to the government.

“Retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo has graciously agreed to assist us with the mammoth task of chairing this first-of-its-kind fund. We believe his extensive experience as a jurist makes him an ideal candidate to oversee all claims and processes are followed by the NFC fund to uphold the principles of fairness, transparency and equity and protect the constitutional rights of our citizens,” said Mkhize.

Regulations must be published by April 30 and a process to allow South Africans to make public comments on the draft regulations is expected to begin soon.

The minister made the revelations during a portfolio committee on health sitting where he updated the nation on the J&J clinical trials, vaccines, procurement and progress in the vaccination rollout programme.

On Tuesday Mkhize announced SA would temporarily suspend the J&J vaccination rollout while scientists investigate a possible link between the vaccine and a rare type of blood clot in the brain.

The suspension comes after the US Food and Drug Administration reportedly took a decision to pause the use of the vaccination pending a review after reports that six women in the US developed rare cerebral venous thrombosis, which are blood clots in combination with low blood levels of blood platelets.

A total of 6.6 million people have been vaccinated with the J&J vaccine in the US.

Mkhize told parliament that throughout the negotiation process, SA entered into non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements with manufacturers, but the government acknowledged the constitutional obligation to account to parliament.

He said the department of health has procured 31 million vaccines from J&J.

An initial agreement was signed and the initial purchase price has been paid, he said.

“This agreement included an option for the department to call for 20 million more vaccines after the signing of the initial agreement. This option was immediately exercised to ensure we secure enough vaccines, hence we are now procuring a total of 31 million vaccines from J&J.”

The conditions of the first agreement had been met, said Mkhize.

“In relation to the second agreement, J&J had put in a precondition that no-fault compensation regulations must be published by April 30 2021. This condition has also been made by Pfizer. We are pleased the NCCC accepted the recommendations on Tuesday for the draft regulations to be published for public comment on the NFC fund.

“This means South Africans will have an opportunity to make their input and comment on the draft regulations. This will take about five days. This period is shorter than the usual processes used for public consultation.

“However, we believe it gives us an opportunity to implement the vaccine, adverse events and compensation scheme at the same time we start to roll out the vaccine, which we expecting in the next few days.”

Mkhize said this was evidence the government was complying with the terms of the agreement, but could also be seen as a guarantee and assurance to every citizen “that their rights are fully protected during the process of  vaccination and that there is sufficient recourse in place should the experience of adverse events occur while being vaccinated”.

On the structure of the fund, Mkhize said there has not been any undertaking from any of the manufacturers to make a contribution, so the government believes this will mainly be funded by the state.

“We will be taking into account and processing all the public comments we receive so we are in the position to formally gazette the final regulation by April 22.

“We intend for the NFC fund to be independent and have the credibility and skill that is required.”

Due to Tuesday’s urgent announcement, Mkhize said he had to postpone a meeting with Ngcobo to discuss and finalise the appointment process.