Government Apologises to Thalidomide Victims, But COVID Vaccine Injuries Remain Unrecognised

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Government Apologises to Thalidomide Victims, But COVID Vaccine Injuries Remain Unrecognised

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has this week apologised to Australia’s Thalidomide victims – more than 60 years on from what he called one ‘one of the darkest chapters in Australia’s medical history.’

And it’s absolutely right that the government should reopen the Australian Thalidomide Survivors Support Program, which was established by the previous government.

It promises a lifetime package providing a one-off lump sum payment in recognition of pain and suffering, as well as ongoing annual payments.

Thalidomide was prescribed in the 1950s and 1960s to women suffering morning sickness during pregnancy.

It was also prescribed for insomnia and anxiety, and, as Anthony Albanese admitted in his apology, the drug had been banned overseas but at the time was still circulated in Australia.

It took almost a decade for the drug to be linked to miscarriages, early childhood deaths and significant birth defects in thousands of children.

Long overdue

The battle for Thalidomide victims to be acknowledged and compensated has been an incredibly long one.

As many have remarked in the wake of the Prime Minister’s apology, recognition is “long overdue,” – despite a lot of publicity over the years, a good deal of political lobbying and even a successful class action lawsuit by Australian and New Zealand survivors in 2014, against the drug’s British distributor Diageo Scotland Ltd, which was settled for $89 million Australian dollars.

Today, there are about 150 Thalidomide survivors – the life expectancy of these survivors was never predicted to be long, many have had ongoing complex health issues their entire lives.

But as Prime Minister Albanese’s speech made media headlines and gave us all time to reflect on a particularly shameful chapter in Australian history, for the ignorance or disinterest of successive governments in righting a very serious wrong, for thousands of Australians it was not difficult to draw a parallel with those currently suffering from Covid vaccination injury.

Ongoing failure to recognise Covid vaccination victims

These people have been trying desperately to be recognised and compensated, after they agreed to vaccinations that the State and Federal Governments promised were both “safe and effective,” and in some cases, were actually mandated.

But when the Albanese Government delivered its budget in May this year, it actually lowered the Federal Government compensation scheme’s funding to $28 million, down from $77 million in the previous budget.

This doesn’t appear to bode well for victims of Covid vaccines, considering the scheme has already been criticised, particularly for the limited list of symptoms it will actually cover and its general inaccessibility, and paltry compensation payments.

Governments are increasingly uncaring and unaccountable

Concerningly, Governments around the world, including our own, knew when Covid vaccines were rolled out that they were ‘new’ and had undergone limited testing, particularly long-term testing. Yet, during the pandemic, the vaccine push was relentless, and most Governments, including our own, still advocate for these vaccines.

But now, when there’s a need for accountability, no one wants to be responsible.

In fact research from Coverse, an advocacy organisation for Vaccine Injury Syndrome, suggests the majority of Australians harmed by the Covid vaccines get zero support from government or employers, and two-thirds of those who had mandated vaccinations have not been given support via workers’ compensation.

Earlier this year Coverse reported that many sufferers were previously fit, healthy and active, prior to reporting a reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine.

In some cases, people who have suffered an injury have been barely able to function, some have crippling new disabilities, and what’s more, medical teams have not been able to provide meaningful treatment options for them. Nor have these victims been able to access any compensation for their medical costs.

A signifcant number of people falling into this category are children, now facing an uncertain future and potentially long term, or life-long health concerns.

Many affected people may well end up relying on the NDIS system which is already stretched beyond capacity and also flawed.

When will we learn?

However, instead of considering these very real issues as ‘part of the pandemic response’ – the Albanese government has announced a significantly watered down inquiry from what had been originally expected.

This is not just a lost opportunity to explore all lessons learned from Covid, not just the impacts on business and the economy, but it’s a missed opportunity for Governments to understand the real impact that their decisions (extended lockdowns, border closures, coerced vaccinations etc) have had on ordinary Australians.

The double standards and the lack of consideration for ‘real people’ (who, let’s remember, pay the politicians’ wages) appears, sadly, to be as absent today for Covid Vax Injury victims as it has been over the past six decades for Thalidomide victims.

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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