Vaccines serve an essential public health function by preventing the spread of contagious and potentially deadly diseases like smallpox, polio and whooping cough, to name a few. While there is no doubt that vaccines are safe and effective, there are side effects. Although serious side effects are quite rare, they do occur. While the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks, in 1986, Congress created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (“Program”) to provide a no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system for people found to be injured by certain vaccines.
What is The Program?
The Program was established after traditional lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers and healthcare providers caused vaccine shortages and threatened to reduce vaccination rates. In return for a qualified immunity from suit, vaccine manufactures help fund the Program that provides compensation to people who can show that they were injured by a covered vaccine.
The Program provides compensation for any injury caused by a covered vaccine, but some are so clear that the Program maintains a Vaccine Table of injuries where, if the injured person can meet the requirements set forth in the Table, causation is presumed.
Types of Vaccine Injuries
While a wide variety of injuries are covered under the Program, there are several that are more common. A small number of people sustain an anaphylactic response to vaccination that occurs very quickly, usually within four hours.
If a vaccine is injected too high on a person’s shoulder or is otherwise allowed to infiltrate the shoulder joint, it can result in a shoulder injury known as SIRVA, which stands for Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration. The symptoms of SIRVA, which include pain and loss of range or motion, appear 48 hours or less after vaccination and persist. Vaccines can also cause an autoimmune response in some recipients, which is where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue, rather than the invading virus.
Guillain Barre Syndrome is an autoimmune disease that causes temporary paralysis by attacking the myelin sheaths of the host’s nerves. GBS has been associated most closely with the influenza vaccine, but it can also be caused by other vaccines.
Currently, most common vaccines, like influenza, tetanus, MMR, and polio are covered under the Program. There are some very common vaccines that are not: the Herpes Zoster (“Shingles”) vaccine and all three Covid-19 vaccines are not currently covered, although there is bipartisan legislation pending in Congress that would add the Covid vaccines to the Program.
At Faraci Lange, we have years of experience in representing people injured by vaccines in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. If you believe that you have sustained a vaccine injury, call us for a free consultation so that we can determine whether we can help you.