Vaccines serve the essential public health function of preventing serious and deadly diseases. Unfortunately, despite this essential function, a very small number of people can develop serious and sometimes deadly complications after vaccination.
To address this, in the 1980s, Congress created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to provide a no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system.
As part of the Program, the Federal Government publishes a Vaccine Injury Table that lists the vaccines covered under the Program, the injuries that are recognized to be caused by each vaccine, and the time period within which the first symptom of each such condition should appear to give rise to a rebuttable presumption of causation.
Periodically, the Vaccine Injury Table is amended to add vaccines and/or injuries that are covered under the Program.
The latest amendment of the Vaccine Injury Table became effective on March 21, 2017. This amendment was significant in three ways:
- It added Guillain-Barre Syndrome ("GBS") to the Table where the first symptoms present within 42 days of an influenza vaccination;
- It added Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration ("SIRVA") to the Table where the first symptoms present within 48 hours of a vaccination for each covered vaccine;
- Pursuant to 42 U.S. Code § 300aa-16(b), people who developed GBS after an influenza vaccination or SIRVA after any covered vaccination after March 21, 2009 can bring an action under the Program on or before March 20, 2019.
Normally, a vaccine claim must be brought within three years of the first symptom or manifestation of a vaccine-related injury. For death cases, the claim must be brought within 2 years of the date of death. 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-16(a)(2).
However, the statute has a savings provision, 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-16(b), that permits people who were previously time barred from bringing a claim to file their actions within two years of an amendment to the vaccine injury table where such person was either not eligible prior to the amendment or where the amendment significantly increases the likelihood of compensation under the Program.
Based on the March 21, 2017 Table amendment, anyone who has developed GBS within 42 days of an influenza vaccination or SIRVA after any vaccination after March 21, 2009 are still eligible to file a claim. But they must file that claim before March 20, 2019, or be forever barred from doing so.