David Fisher lodged a claim with the national COVID vaccine injury compensation scheme in February 2022, after contracting myocarditis from his Pfizer vaccination. A year and a half on, Fisher’s claim is still in progress, highlighting the gap between political promises and the difficulties that the injured can face in seeking compensation.
“It’s been a very frustrating 18 months,” says COVID vaccine-injured Perth man, David Fisher. Since lodging his claim with the national compensation scheme in February 2022, Fisher, who contracted myocarditis after his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, has been in bureaucratic limbo.
Fisher’s claim includes out-of-pocket expenses for past and future medical appointments and medications, which he has been told by his cardiologist and GP will be required for the rest of his life.
He also claimed for lost earnings and compensation for pain and suffering. More than 18 months after the initial injury, Fisher, a 34-year-old data analyst, says he still can’t live a normal life due to restrictions on his levels of physical exertion.
After submitting his claim to Services Australia, which administers the compensation scheme, Fisher says he heard “radio silence” for six months. He was then advised that his claim had finally progressed to a panel for assessment, a process which took a further six months.
In February 2023, a year and two days after Fisher submitted his claim, he received an offer of compensation for $22,339.68, an amount that fell short of Fisher’s expectations by several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I was disgusted,” says Fisher, who believed that the vaccines were ‘safe and effective’ at the time that he received the shots and that in getting vaccinated, he was doing the right thing to protect others.
“The first thing I did was sat down and worked out how long this money would last me. I worked out it would take me to just shy of 50 years old with all my medical expenses,” Fisher says, pointing out that the average life expectancy for Australian males is 81 years of age.
A spokesperson for Services Australia said, “If found eligible, applicants are given up to 6 months to accept an offer of compensation. Applicants may accept the offer, or if they’re not satisfied, they can request a review.”
Fisher requested a review, however, he says this is potentially risky. “If you request a review, then the old offer is off the table,” he explains. “The new review will give me a final offer. It could be less, it could be more, or they could reject it altogether.”
Fisher outlined his objections to the compensation offer in a six-page letter, submitted to Services Australia in March of this year. “The main discrepancy was that there was no inflation factored in, and they discounted the preventative medication I’m on. They only cover ‘treatment’ medications, not ‘preventative’.”
However, Fisher argues that as the preventative drug has been determined to be necessary by his cardiologist, his GP, and two other consulting GPs, and as he would not need the medication had he not been injured by the Pfizer vaccine, the cost should be included in the compensation offer.
Fisher also disputes the way in which the panel arrived at the amount offered to compensate for pain and suffering caused by the injury. “My doctor’s recommendation for pain and suffering weighting was ‘moderate’, which should equate to an ‘average’ payment, but the panel downgraded that on the assumption that I can ‘live a normal life’ – which I can’t. They did this without consulting me or my doctors.”
Instead, the panel referenced case law to justify the offer of $6,935 to cover the pain and suffering component of the claim, equivalent to one per cent of the maximum claimable amount for pain and suffering.
“These were 20-year-old cases, and the injuries were incurred in the normal course of life or performing of their work. Being injured because you were coerced into a brand-new mRNA therapeutic is not comparable to these situations,” says Fisher.
As of 5 June 2023, Fisher had not heard from Services Australia as to whether his compensation review had progressed. When he called to follow up, “they were unable to tell me if my review has been assigned to an assessment panel, or give me an expected timeframe for processing.”
A spokesperson for Services Australia has since advised Umbrella News, “While we can’t discuss individual cases, we have reached out to Mr Fisher to discuss the progress of his review.”
In the interim, Fisher has been industrious in seeking assistance from other avenues to obtain what he would consider to be a fair offer of compensation in a reasonable timeframe.
A letter to the Health Minister Mark Butler received an expression of sympathy but no action. Letters to numerous other politicians, including West Australian Premier at the time, Mark McGowan, and Fisher’s Federal MP, Ian Goodenough, went unanswered.
Fisher has lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman, has lodged a CDDA claim (Compensation for Detriment Caused by Defective Administration), and has taken the matter to the Australian Administrative Tribunal (AAT). All are still in progress. He also lodged several Freedom of Information requests in an effort to gather more information about how compensation claims are assessed.
Fisher is one of numerous vaccine-injured Australians who say that the compensation scheme has fallen short of its promise.
Announcing the impending rollout of the COVID vaccine claims scheme in late 2021, Health Minister at the time, Greg Hunt, said that the scheme would “provide Australians with quick access to compensation.”
“Serious and life-threatening side effects are very rare, but it is important that we provide a safety net to support those affected,” Minister Hunt said at the time.
In reality, very few Australians have been awarded compensation for their vaccine injuries since the scheme commenced in December 2021. As of 31 May 2023, only 164 out of a total of 3,160 claims had been approved, which is less than five per cent. 911 claims had been deemed not payable, 505 had been withdrawn, and 2,030 claims remain in progress.
The Services Australia website says that the scheme is intended to “provide a simple, streamlined process to compensate eligible people, without the need for complex legal proceedings.”
Yet Fisher says that while submitting the initial paperwork is straightforward enough, the rest of the process is drawn out and impossibly complex for a lay person. “You basically have to have a law degree to navigate it,” he says.
Such difficulties have led some frustrated vaccine-injured Australians to pursue legal action, such as the widely publicised COVID vaccine class action, which was filed in the Federal Court in April this year.
The action is seeking compensation for COVID vaccine-injured Australians, alleging that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) did not fulfil its duty to properly regulate the COVID vaccines, resulting in harm and damage.
Queensland GP Dr Melissa McCann, who instigated the action and initiated crowdfunding, said in a statement at the time of filing, “The Services Australia COVID vaccine claims scheme is not fit for purpose.”
“Australians were promised a fair and accessible compensation scheme. Many vaccine-injured Australians who cannot access compensation through the Services Australia scheme now find themselves abandoned, with no support.”
Fisher has joined the class action, stating that while he initially had no intention of taking legal action, he now feels, “my hand has been forced because the government has hung me out to dry.”
Prior to his COVID vaccination, Fisher led a normal life. The young father was healthy and active, running several times a week and playing indoor cricket and soccer.
Five days after his first Pfizer COVID vaccination in September 2021, Fisher experienced a life-altering event. Waking suddenly in the middle of the night, he says, “It felt like someone slammed a plank of wood into my chest that was full of nails, and I couldn’t pull it out. Sharp, throbbing pain.”
The next morning, Fisher’s four-year-old son found him collapsed on the floor at home. Fisher was rushed to the hospital, where he spent five nights. He was diagnosed with myocarditis, which medical professionals have attributed to his vaccination.
Since that day, life as he knew it will never be the same. “They said I would have a full recovery, but 18 months on I’m carrying excess weight because my ability to exercise is limited. I still get occasional chest pain and I’m out of breath a lot. Going for a normal walk, I get tired easily,” says Fisher, who cannot risk physical overexertion.
Fisher has been advised by his GP and cardiologist that he will need to be on medication for the rest of his life. He will also have to go for costly bi-annual heart check-ups.
But the impact on his home life is where Fisher says it hurts the most. “I have two young kids and I can’t be active with them. I can’t coach soccer with them.” Fisher’s partner also had to pick up a lot of the home duties, particularly during the first 12 months of Fisher’s injury, due to his limited physical ability.
“I live very cautiously now,” says Fisher. “I changed my diet, I stopped drinking alcohol – not that I was a big drinker anyway – and I minimise stress. I don’t go out a lot anymore.” Fisher says that if he could go back in time, he would never have had the jab, to begin with. “I would rather have lost my job than go through this.”
Despite being injured by the first vaccination, Fisher was unable to obtain a medical exemption from taking subsequent shots. He had a total of three COVID vaccinations (the second was AstraZeneca, and the third was Novavax), as they were required for his job under the West Australian Government’s workplace vaccine mandates.
“After my initial reaction, I should not have been forced to take the next two vaccinations to keep my job,” says Fisher. “I’ve had COVID several times,” he adds. “The vaccine didn’t protect me at all – it harmed me.”
Now that that damage is done, Fisher says he just wants proper compensation so that he can move on with this life.
“In the 1990s, the Speaker of the Parliament crashed his bicycle on the way home from work and got $65,000 compensation. The Australian Government paid $785 million for cancelled submarines and got nothing for it, but won’t properly compensate our own citizens for suffering inflicted by a coerced vaccination,” says Fisher. “They need to put their money where their mouth is.”
The COVID vaccine class action remains open for injured Australians to join. Find out more about the class action here.