In most states, children must get a round of vaccinations before they’re allowed to enter the public school system.
These vaccines are lifesavers that promote herd immunity and keep terrible diseases once rife in the U.S. largely suppressed.
The vast majority of vaccinations happen without incident. But every once in a while, a patient has reason to believe that they suffered a vaccine injury. They make a claim from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
What are the most common vaccination injuries and should you make a claim? Here’s what you need to know.
What You Need to Know About Vaccination Injuries
Vaccination injuries are very rare. We know because a federal program called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program tracks every reported injury as well as every vaccine dose provided.
What is a vaccine injury? There are five primary types.
5 Types of Vaccine Injuries
The five types of vaccine injury include:
- Shoulder injuries
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
Shoulder injuries are the most common, and they can include either an injury from the use of the needle or from the contents fo the vaccine. While some soreness is expected immediately after a vaccine, extended or frequent pain or the loss of use of a shoulder.
Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction caused by the vaccine itself or the ingredients. The symptoms may be uncomfortable and include some hives but it can also include fainting and throat swelling, which can be lethal.
Myelitis is an injury that remains poorly understood, at least in terms of its relation to the vaccination of infectious diseases. It occurs when the spinal cord is inflamed and causes damage to your nerves. Some of the symptoms include pain, weakness, blurred vision, and paralysis. While myelitis can be treated, it cannot yet be cured.
Guillain-Barre syndrome can occur with several vaccines and even the annual flu shot. When the syndrome occurs, your immune system attacks itself, which causes nerve damage. The nerve damage may be temporary and resolve itself within a few weeks, but severe damage may be lasting.
Encephalitis is another immune response, but it impacts the brain. Most experience symptoms like headache, fatigue, fever, and pain. It can resolve over time, but it requires regular check-ins with a doctor.
Is Autism a Vaccination Injury?
The injuries listed above are the most commonly recognized injuries, but other so-called injuries have taken hold of the popular imagination.
Although some people claim without evidence that autism is a measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination injury and you can apply for compensation, you’re unlikely to win. No parent or adult has ever won compensation by claiming that autism was caused by a vaccination.
In 2002, the court allowed plaintiffs with the three strongest cases to come forward in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding. There was no causal effect established. Cases have been routinely dismissed since.
What to Do If You Experience a Vaccine Injury
Since 1988, anyone in the United States who experiences a vaccination injury turns to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).
If your doctor decides that what you have is an injury, then you file a petition for financial compensation from the program. If the program finds your vaccine caused your injury, then you can receive financial compensation. However, you might still be eligible for a settlement even if the VICP doesn’t find that your vaccination caused your injury. The program receives funding from an excise tax on vaccines.
Who can apply? The program is open to anyone of any age. However, it only applies to the following covered vaccines:
- Haemophilus influenza type b polysaccharide conjugate vaccines
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Human papillomavirus
- Seasonal influenza
- Pneumococcal conjugate
You can find the full list on the VICP website.
Keep in mind that the seasonal flu shot is covered but any non-seasonal flu vaccines aren’t on the list.
Do You Have to File a Lawsuit?
No, you don’t have to file a lawsuit or go to court. The VICP offers an alternative to the legal system and is specific for vaccine injuries.
Americans use the VICP because it prevents the lawsuits from slowing down the production of vaccines and reducing vaccination rates. If and when this happens, there are resurgences of diseases like measles. Measles was once on its way to being all but wiped out in the U.S. and much of Europe but low vaccination rates caused the disease to come roaring back.
In fact, it’s often not possible to sue vaccine makers. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (which started the VICP) makes it difficult to sue by reducing the manufacturers’ liability.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
Even though you’re applying to a program and not appearing in court, you may find you need the help of a vaccination injury lawyer.
The program is a no-fault process. However, since it started accepting cases in 1988, it has seen more than 16,000 petitions. Over two-thirds of those cases were dismissed.
However, when a case does succeed, the settlement can be huge. The program has awarded $3.6 billion to successful applicants.
A vaccine injury lawyer can help you make your case to the VICP and argue the appropriate amount of damages to compensate you for your injury.
Are You a Candidate for Vaccine Injury Compensation?
If you or a dependent experienced a vaccine injury, then you can apply to the VICP program for injury compensation. The process is open to anyone in the U.S. who received a vaccine from the list of covered vaccinations.
Vaccine injuries are rare, but when they do occur, they can be painful and even cause lasting damage. Filing a claim helps the government track injuries and attempts to hold vaccine makers accountable.
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