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Finland compensates 15 people for Covid vaccine side effects

The amount of compensation paid out ranges between 600 and 2,000 euros.

Pfizerin ja Astra Zenecan rokoteruiskuja rokotuspisteessä.
In Finland, the state bears responsibility for any possible side effects of coronavirus vaccines. Compensation has only been paid to 15 people, while nearly two million have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

A total of 15 people in Finland have received compensation for side effects related to a coronavirus vaccine, including for rashes, allergy symptoms, swollen lymph nodes and numbness. The amount of compensation paid out has ranged between 600 and 2,000 euros.

A further 13 claims for compensation have been rejected, while 57 cases are pending.

The claims are handled by the Finnish Mutual Insurance Company for Pharmaceutical Injury Indemnities. The company's CEO Tiina Hellgrén told Yle that so far no serious, unknown side effects have been reported among the 85 claims received by the end of last week.

Hellgrén added that the number of claims is relatively small, considering that nearly two million people in Finland have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Pfizer have been involved in roughly the same number of claim cases, while the Moderna vaccine has only been involved in one.

The compensation is paid by the Finnish state, which sets aside about 30 million euros in collateral each year to cover possible payments.

Rare side effect from the vaccine

Healthcare worker Minna* is one of the 15 to have received compensation. Yle has not used her real name in this article due to the sensitivity of the subject matter.

Because of her work, Minna was among the first to be vaccinated in early January and received a second Pfizer dose three weeks later. She said the side effects began quickly after that.

"The morning after the second vaccine, my entire body began to shake," Minna recalled.

The vibrations lasted for about a week, during which time Minna continued her work as normal. She experienced vibrations in both hands and also in her back and neck, as well as a tremor on the right side of her face for a couple of days.

As the vibrations intensified, Minna sought medical attention as she was no longer able to do her job and had to take sick leave.

"On sick leave, I read everything that had been written about the vaccine, but I did not find reports of similar side effects in others," she said, adding that her symptoms were also considered to be very rare by doctors that examined her, and there was no prognosis.

Minna underwent several neurological tests, but no explanatory factor other than the coronavirus vaccine was found.

Her sick leave lasted a total of six weeks, during which time her symptoms eased and she was eventually able to return to her job. The vibrations now occur very rarely, and they no longer have much effect on her life.

Minna told Yle she only dared to talk more widely about the side effects after receiving a reimbursement decision from the insurance company and reassurance that her symptoms were due to the vaccine. She added that she wanted to talk about her experience so that others with similar symptoms could learn more about her experience.

Compensation for side effects, medical bills, loss of earnings

Minna said that so far, she has received a one-time compensation payment of 1,000 euros for the vaccine incident, as well as compensation for treatment and medicine costs. She does not yet know the final amount of compensation, as the insurance company still has to calculate the exact loss of earnings which can be reimbursed.

Hellgrén said that the majority of those who have received compensation so far were, like Minna, healthcare staff that were among the first to receive the vaccine.

Reimbursements can be made if symptoms last for at least 14 days and there is a likely causal link between the symptoms and the vaccine.

According to Hellgrén, the biggest compensation paid so far was made to a claimant who had a vaccine-caused rash, and the individual also was compensated for costs incurred by the situation, as well as for loss of earnings.

Hellgrén declined to say whether the sums already paid include any cases of thrombosis in Finland, as there are so few cases this information is covered by privacy legislation.

No regrets about receiving jab

Minna told Yle that she has not yet had time to consider whether the lump sum of 1,000 euros she received is an appropriate amount for the harm caused by the vaccine.

"Mostly I have been pleased to have my life back after a six week break. I would rather have been without the vibrations than taken 1,000 euros," she said, adding that the most difficult thing was having to live with the uncertainty of the ordeal.

"I wondered if I would have to change jobs if I didn't recover. Or how would I cope if I had to retire," Minna added.

Despite the side effects caused by the vaccine, Minna does not regret getting the jab and would take it again as the risk of contracting the virus would be high.

"I have children, there are people at risk in my family and I constantly work with coronavirus patients," she explained.

According to Minna, those who refuse the vaccine do not take into account those who are unable to take the vaccine.

"I would not want to take responsibility for acting as an asymptomatic carrier and passing the virus on to a person who cannot take the vaccine," she said, adding that she plans to discuss vaccinating her own children with doctors.

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