What You Need to Know About Vaccine Injuries

Vaccines have been proven to provide powerful and effective protections against some of our most serious diseases and illnesses. They work by introducing a substance – usually a weakened or killed form of the disease – to stimulate the body’s immune system response to the disease if it encounters it again. Though vaccines represent an overall good, their use has also led to some injuries. People who have received vaccines have suffered disabilities, illness, injury, and in rare instances, their use has even led to death.

Vaccine injuries are a serious issue and a national concern. The government has responded by establishing the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), which provides compensation for those who have suffered these types of injuries. Participation in the VICP provides numerous types of compensation to those who have been injured and is a required first step before any legal action can be taken against either a medical provider or a pharmaceutical company.

We submit to vaccines to protect our health. Suffering a potentially disabling injury goes against everything we have always understood about preventive medicine. If you or someone you love suffered an injury from a vaccination, you are justifiably upset and you need answers. Here’s what you need to know about vaccine injuries and your rights.

Can every vaccination cause an injury?

Not every vaccination is included in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, but there is an extensive list of vaccines that are. These include:

  • Diptheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DPT)
  • Hemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib)
  • Hepatitis B (Hep B)
  • Human Papilloma Virus
  • Measles
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella (or any combination thereof)
  • Pneumococcal (Pneumonia)
  • Polio inactivated virus (IPV)
  • Polio live virus (OPV)
  • Rotavirus
  • Rubella
  • Seasonal flu
  • Tetanus
  • Varicella (Chicken Pox)

What injuries have immunizations caused?

The list of injuries that have resulted from vaccines includes:

  • Anaphylactic shock (multi-system allergic reaction including breathing difficulty, drop of blood pressure, loss of consciousness)
  • Brachial neuritis (pain that usually affects one side of the body, usually in the upper arm or shoulder, and evolving into weakness, limpness or paralysis of the limb)
  • Encephalitis (brain inflammation)
  • Encephalopathy (brain damage)
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome (the immune system attacking its own nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and/or paralysis)
  • Intussusception (bowel blockage caused by the bowel folding in on itself)
  • SIRVA (Shoulder Injury Related Vaccine Administration)
  • Thrombocytopenic purpura (bleeding disorder caused by the immune system destroying its own platelet)
  • Transverse Myelitis (immune system process that causes injury to the spinal cord)
  • Vasovagal Syncope (fainting)

What compensation does the VICP program provide?

Those who have suffered injuries are able to file claims with the VICP seeking compensation for the damages that they have suffered. The compensations that are available include:

  • Financial compensation for actual and projected pain and suffering, up to $250,000
  • Compensation for non-reimbursable medical costs, custodial care, rehabilitation and other similar expenses past and future, with no limitation on the amount that may be paid
  • Compensation for lost wages
  • Financial compensation to the estate of the deceased following death resulting from a vaccination injury, up to $250,000
  • Compensation for attorneys’ fees and costs for injuries as well as for death

Can I sue the pharmaceutical company or my physician for a vaccine injury?

If you or your child have suffered a vaccine injury from a covered vaccine, the first step that you must take is to file a claim under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. These cases are heard in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. No individual suits can be filed against the company that manufactured or designed a vaccine, or against a medical provider who administered the vaccine, without first pursuing a claim through VICP.

What is the process for filing a VICP claim? 

All claims for vaccine injuries are filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which is located in Washington, D.C. In recognition of the need for access to the courts, however, the government has provided accommodations making it possible for conferences and/or trials to be heard close to the victim’s home. A VICP claim must be filed within three years of the appearance of the first symptom of the vaccine injury or within two years of a death (and in cases of death, a 4-year maximum amount of time after the first symptom) from a vaccine injury.

What are my first steps?

Though you are permitted to represent yourself in a VICP claim, it is strongly advised that you work with a qualified and experienced attorney.  Attorneys’ fees and costs are paid through the VICP separately from any compensation that you receive, and are frequently paid even if your claim is not successful.

For more information, call our office to set up a free consultation on your specific situation.