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The authors of this Perspective examine liability and compensation issues as they relate to the future distribution and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. They provide a brief history of how the U.S. government has addressed liability and compensation concerns in previous public health threats — specifically by providing liability immunity to manufacturers and distributors of vaccines should lawsuits arise as the result of serious side effects, as well as by setting up compensation systems that provide some, but not all, benefits of traditional tort litigation. That the COVID-19 pandemic is global complicates issues of liability outside the United States because an act of Congress cannot determine legal procedure in other countries. The authors also consider the possibility that volunteers for vaccination campaigns might be hesitant and suggest consideration of appropriate compensation for any adverse effects.

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Funding for this Perspective was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The research was conducted by the Justice Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

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