Insurers set to exclude cover for practitioners administering COVID-19 vaccine

A number of medical malpractice insurers have amended their policy wordings to exclude cover for claims in connection with the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.

With pharmacies in NSW to be included in the online vaccination booking system later this month, the question of insurance for the health practitioners involved is a timely one. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has stated there are 22 pharmacies in NSW ready to begin administering the vaccine as of 19 July. “NSW Health and the Pharmacy Guild are having conversations about how to scale that up as soon as possible” said Ms Berejiklian.

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Across Australia, thousands of Pharmacies volunteered for the vaccination rollout program. Of these, 3900 community pharmacies were deemed suitable and many have begun training.

Insurers’ trepidation to cover those distributing the vaccine (as distinct from manufacturing it) is understandable. However, excluding cover for those who are alleged to have negligently administered or distributed the vaccine, cuts across the grain of the government’s strategy to roll out the drugs quickly and safely.

The exclusions being applied limits insurers’ liability for personal injury occurring in connection with the vaccine. On that basis, it is intended that if, in the course of administering the vaccine the practitioner does not follow protocols, administers the vaccine incorrectly, uses an out of date vaccine or otherwise does something causing personal injury, then the practitioner will have no insurance cover.

Practitioners accept insurers’ positions that their policies do not intend on responding to “personal injury” that arises from (amongst other things) the efficacy, effects, performance or non-performance of the vaccines themselves. But, surely, if the cause of the injury to a person is directly attributable to negligence during the administration of the vaccine correctly, the practitioner ought to have the benefit of their medical malpractice policy?

Given the push to roll out vaccinations, and the involvement of pharmacists (amongst others) to assist distribution, public policy must dictate that recipients of the vaccine receive it from an appropriately insured practitioner? The insurance industry needs to be looking after practitioners and the wider community if the government’s target of mass adoption of the vaccination program is to be achieved.

Currently, cover is available for practitioners that have complied with all relevant published professional and/or government protocols and standards for the treatment of patients. Bellrock has a specialist Team to assist pharmacists and other medical professionals obtain adequate insurance for the administration of COVID-19 vaccinations. Please make sure you check your policies or contact us for advice.