Switzerland Covid Vaccine NFCS
Switzerland had an existing no-fault compensation programme for mandatory or officially recommended vaccines introduced in 1970 through the Federal Law of 18 December 1970 on Communicable Disease Control (Epidemics Act) 818.101. Originally the programme was administered at the canton level, and each canton of Switzerland used to be responsible for developing their own compensation procedures (see Crum, Mooney and Tiwari 2021).
A complete revision of the Epidemics Act was passed on 28th September 2012 and entered into force on 1st January 2016. Articles 64 to 69 of the revised Act provide for a uniform federal procedure for handling claims for compensation and moral reparation in the event of damage caused by vaccinations. There does not appear to be a specific date on which COVID-19 vaccines were explicitly incorporated into this scheme. However, the NFCS seems to have covered eligible COVID vaccination-related injuries since the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines in Switzerland in December 2020.
It is administered by the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) which is Government department (see Epidemics Act, Article 66(1)).
The funding for the scheme comes from different sources depending on the specific vaccine considered (Epidemics Act, Article 68). For recommended vaccinations, the Confederation and the canton in which the vaccination takes places each pay one half of the costs of the compensation. For compulsory vaccinations, the entire costs of the compensation shall be paid by:
a. the Confederation if it has declared the vaccination to be mandatory;
b. the Canton that declared the vaccination to be mandatory.
This NFCS covers mandatory and officially recommended vaccines (Epidemics Act, Article 64).
As Switzerland does not allow for emergency authorisation, it is assumed the Swiss vaccine NFCS only covers vaccines which have received standard approval.
This NFCS covers both temporary and permanent injuries.
Under this NFCS only eligible injuries are covered. In order to be eligible for compensation, an injury following a mandatory or officially recommended vaccination needs to have caused damage to health, that is an impairment lasting for a shorter or longer period of time involving financial loss (i.e. a reduction in assets).
Damage due to vaccination does not include minor side effects (e.g. redness, swelling or hardening at the injection site, headache, muscle aches, fever) which generate costs in the event of drug treatment or medical examination.
In case of severe health impairment, compensation for non-monetary damage (such as pain, suffering and emotional distress) is also awarded. The compensation awarded for non-monetary damage is proportionate to the severity of the injury (see Epidemics Act, Article 65).
Note that NFCS compensation under this scheme is granted only and to the extent that the damage suffered as a result of the vaccination is not covered by third parties, according to the principle of subsidiarity. An applicant is required to prove that she has not received payments from third parties, in particular from insurance companies, or that these payments are insufficient to cover the damages (see guidelines to applicants, available here in Italian, French and German).
Charges for making a claim
It is not known whether or not there is a charge for making a claim under this scheme.
Under this scheme the following categories of individuals are permitted to make a claim:
- Vaccine recipient or legal representative of the vaccine recipient (see Article 100, Human Communicable Diseases Ordinance 818.101.1)
Under this scheme the claimant is allowed to nominate a legal representative to make their claim. It is not known whether funding for legal representation is provided by this scheme.
It should be noted that, while not included as possible applicants by Article 100, Human Communicable Diseases Ordinance 818.101.1, dependants and surviving relatives of deceased vaccine recipient also seem to be covered by this compensation scheme – see Epidemics Act, Article 65(1) and Code of Obligations, Article 47 (on non-economic loss compensation), which should apply by analogy to cases of vaccine compensation, and also applicant guidelines on types of damage covered. Article 47 of the Code of Obligations provides for non-economic compensation (‘moral damages’ or ‘satisfaction’) in cases of personal injury or homicide, with the surviving family of the deceased person receiving compensation. NFCS applicant guidelines also include funeral costs and damages caused by the loss of the person providing support among the categories compensated by the scheme.
This scheme pays the following:
Live vaccine recipient
Dependants of vaccine recipient
Surviving family of a deceased vaccine recipient
Both eligible economic and eligible non-economic losses are compensated.
Both eligible economic and eligible non-economic losses are compensated (compensation to dependants only appears to be available if the vaccinated person is deceased).
Both eligible economic and eligible non-economic losses are compensated.
It is not known whether payments consist of a lump sum payment, a periodic payment, or a mixture of periodic payments and a lump sum payment.
Funeral expenses are available under this NFCS.
Compensation under this scheme is individualised for economic loss, while tariffs/guidelines are used to assist with quantification of non-economic loss (the guidelines for non-economic loss are included among the documents available for download on the FDHA website here).
Loss of earnings are paid under this scheme. They are quantified on an individual basis.
Compensation under this scheme is capped for non-economic loss, with a top value of 70,000 CHF – see Epidemics Act, Article 65(3).
There is no minimum claim value under this NFCS.
Time limits for claims
The scheme does not set a time limit between vaccination and the adverse event occurring.
A claim under the scheme must be brought within 5 years of vaccination, or by the age of 21. This NFCS only covers injuries following vaccinations administered after 1 January 2016.
Evaluating claims – standard of proof required
Specific criteria to determine the existence of a causal link between vaccination and an injury are developed by the Federal Commission for Vaccination (FCV). This takes into account internationally recognized scientific criteria and the criteria used by the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products in order to evaluate the undesirable effects of drugs.
The FCV maintains a publicly accessible list including in particular the following elements:
- already recognized undesirable effects of a vaccination;
- criteria for establishing the causal link between vaccination and damage;
- criteria for determining the level of severity of the undesirable effects of a vaccination, in particular if the damage resulted in hospitalization, disability, death, another event or other limitation;
The FCV updates the list regularly taking into account current scientific knowledge – see Human Communicable Diseases Ordinance 818.101.1, Article 86.
Appeals and the right to litigate
The right to litigate is not affected by use of the scheme. The principle of subsidiarity applies – an injured person has to make reasonable efforts to be compensated through other legal routes prior to applying to the NFCS.
There is an external review process where another organisation reviews the decision (see Epidemics Act, Article 69).
Useful information and links
It is not known whether the scheme produces an annual report including data on claims & financial performance (claim numbers, payments, claim processing timeframes, administrative costs, etc).
Link to the scheme website:
Federal Office of Public Health website, section on vaccination NFCS (Available in German, French and Italian): https://www.bag.admin.ch/danni-vaccinazione
Links to legislation:
Crum, T., Mooney, K., & Tiwari, B. R. (2021). Current situation of vaccine injury compensation program and a future perspective in light of COVID-19 and emerging viral diseases. F1000Research, 10, 652. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.51160.2