September 1, 2020

Drug Companies Will Not be Liable for Side Effects of Rushed COVID-19 Vaccines

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Medics get sample for COVID-19. In case a vaccine is available much sooner than usual, and its not safe, it will be impossible to ever get justice

A fast-track scheme put in place by the U.S government allows companies to work quickly and produce a vaccine for COVID-19, likely before American elections in November, in exchange for protection against any consequences after.

An amendment to US law, which was updated in April and only becoming public, stipulates that companies “cannot be sued for money damages in court” over injuries caused by medical countermeasures for Covid-19. Such countermeasures include vaccines, therapeutics, and respiratory devices.

At least 120 vaccines to protect against Covid-19 are in development around the world. And each one holds its own potential for harm. While the hope is that these products will stop coronavirus infections, some will likely prove ineffective.

Others may make the disease worse, as a vaccine meant to protect children from the dengue virus did in 2016. And still others could cause unrelated harms. That was the case with a vaccine for the swine flu, which wound up causing a serious neurological disorder in thousands of healthy people who took it in the 1970s.

Covid-19 treatments, which are now the subject of more than 1,000 clinical trials, can also potentially hurt, as well as help.

Under existing practice, developing a vaccine takes years and decades. Up to this day, despite international efforts and billions of dollars invested, no vaccine is yet available for HIV/Aids.

Given the desperate need for tools to fight the coronavirus, and the life-or-death consequences if those tools prove unsafe, the questions about how to handle the risks are huge and hotly debated.

When companies get protection against any litigation in the US, which is where much of the global medicines get approval before gaining international credibility, means the companies will be rushing to cash in on any vaccines. Experts and US politicians accuse President Donald Trump of pushing through changes to the law giving respite to drug companies, for political reasons; so he can show the electorate of his ability to get things done.

In Rwanda, the infection has been steady, reaching 4,063 – some 43 added yesterday alone. 50% have recovered and 16 have died so far.

The country is currently back in most of the restrictions; no travel from Kigali to other regions, and some districts are also on lockdown. A 7pm to dawn curfew is in place. Gatherings are severely restricted.

Schools have yet to open. Though they had been planned for this September, it doesn’t seem like they will ever soon. The entertainment and bar industry which employs thousands, remains closed – with no indication they will be opened soon.

The economy is struggling, despite government pumping billions of Francs into a recovery plan.

The border remains closed, even when airport is open, largely meant to prevent entry of new cases from Tanzania, Burundi and DR Congo – all of which have opted to ignore the virus and go on with life.

In Rwanda, the vaccine against the virus cannot come soon enough. The question on every Rwandan’s mind is for how long can the strict restrictions, which have made life unbearable, go on?

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