Legal Action Against BioNTech Begins in Germany Over Covid Vaccine Side Effects

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The German vaccine manufacturer BioNTech is facing its first legal claim in its home country over alleged adverse effects caused by its Covid vaccines. This comes more than two years after the start of one of the world's most rapid and extensive vaccination campaigns.

When Covid vaccines were introduced in response to the deadly pandemic that emerged in early 2020, they were widely celebrated as life-saving interventions. However, these vaccines, developed and approved for usage at an unprecedented pace, are now the subject of legal proceedings in multiple countries. Plaintiffs in France, Britain, and now Germany argue that the vaccines have caused harm to their health.

In Hamburg, Germany, a court was scheduled to hear a case against BioNTech, the company that, in partnership with Pfizer, produced the first mRNA vaccine, Comirnaty. However, the hearing was postponed due to a last-minute challenge by the claimant's lawyers, who questioned the judge's impartiality. They have requested a panel of judges to preside over the case.

The plaintiff claims to have experienced various effects, including pain in the upper body, swelling of the extremities, exhaustion, fatigue, and sleeping disorders, after receiving the vaccine. She is seeking €150,000 ($162,000) in damages and recognition that the defendant is obligated to provide compensation for material damages.

Thomas Ulbrich, the plaintiff's lawyer, who is also representing 250 other individuals in similar cases, stated that his clients were all in good health prior to receiving the vaccine but developed symptoms thereafter. He believes there is a connection between the vaccines and the reported symptoms, based on the medical records he has reviewed.

BioNTech's mRNA vaccine, a scientific breakthrough, received conditional marketing authorization from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as early as December 21, 2020. Moderna, another mRNA vaccine manufacturer, also received similar authorization shortly thereafter.

The vaccines were pre-ordered by governments even during the development phases due to the high fear of contracting the disease. Once regulatory authorities granted approval, deployment of the vaccines commenced swiftly. However, the introduction of this new generation of vaccines also triggered skepticism among some individuals, leading to concerns about their safety.

According to the Paul Ehrlich Institute, Germany's medicines regulator, out of 192 million vaccine doses administered, 338,857 suspected cases of side effects were reported, including 54,879 severe reactions. German lawyer Joachim Caesar-Preller, who represents 140 clients making similar claims, stated that the symptoms observed varied significantly, ranging from stroke and thrombosis to cardiac diseases.

The courts will focus on whether the side effects, when used correctly, surpass a "justifiable level according to the findings of medical science." In other words, the severity of the effects must be significant enough to be considered. Anatol Dutta, a professor at Munich University, explained that expert advice would likely be necessary to determine causality.

Claimants seeking compensation for loss of income can also turn to the state for support. As of April, more than 8,000 such applications had been submitted, with approximately five percent of them resulting in successful claims, according to German media reports.

BioNTech, in response to the claims, stated that the number of liability claims received by the company is very small in comparison to the number of vaccine doses it has delivered worldwide. The company emphasized that each claim would be examined individually. While BioNTech acknowledges that it would address valid liability claims, it stated that no proven causal relationship between the presented health impairments and the vaccination with Comirnaty has been established based on its current reviews.

Anja Dornhoff, another lawyer involved in vaccine-related cases, advises her clients to establish a chronology of events and have their symptoms documented by medical professionals. She hopes that individuals experiencing post-vaccination syndromes will be taken seriously.

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