Traditional vaccines are usually well-equipped to handle injury claims. They generally take a decade or more to develop and go through three to four rigorous testing phases by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being declared safe for routine use.
Serious, long-lasting side effects from these time-tested vaccinations are incredibly rare. They pale in comparison to the number of people who forego them and contract or die from the disease they are meant to treat. Some of the rare side effects include:
- DTaP (Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis): Seizures, constant crying, fever over 105 degrees, severe swelling of the injected limb, coma, permanent brain damage
- Virus-inactive flu shot: very small risk of Guillain-Barré Syndrome
- MMR (Measles, mumps and rubella): Seizures, high fever, joint paint, pneumonia, brain or spinal-cord swelling
All routine vaccines are regularly monitored by the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), an early warning program jointly managed by the FDA and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). VAERS requires all “adverse events,” or possible side effects or health problems, to be reported.
In 2019, nearly 50,000 VAERS reports were filed. In 2019, between 10-15% of them were classified as adverse and resulted in permanent injury, hospitalization or death. The rest were all mild, typical side effects to any vaccine, such as high fever, arm soreness and crying. And the majority of adverse events turn out not to be directly caused by the vaccine itself.
Vaccine Protection Programs
For those who suffer adverse events due to a vaccine, in 1986, the U.S. created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), a no-fault program designed to help vaccine injury victims recover medical compensation. The VICP has paid out about $216 million to about 615 claimants every year since 2015. However, often these claimants do not even need to prove that the injuries were caused by the vaccine as long as they develop covered symptoms within a certain time frame.
But because the COVID-19 vaccine was developed in months, not years, and has only been approved for emergency use, it is not covered by the VICP.
As of January 19, 2021, the CDC reports that 90.4 million people have received at least one of the two COVID-19 vaccines, and 30.7 million are fully vaccinated.
Out of those millions of vaccinations, few have resulted in hospitalization and none in death. The most commonly reported symptoms were headache, nausea and dizziness – all mild and temporary effects of any vaccine. Some have experienced allergic reactions, so the CDC says nobody who is allergic to any of the vaccine’s listed ingredients should receive it.
However, because the COVID vaccine has been rolled out so quickly, long-term adverse events cannot be ruled out because it hasn’t been around long enough.
What happens if you develop a serious injury or illness after receiving a COVID vaccine?
Unfortunately, the COVID vaccine manufacturers, Moderna and Pfizer, are not responsible for injury or illness their vaccine may cause.
According to 42 U.S. Code § 300aa–22, “No vaccine manufacturer shall be liable in a civil action for damages arising from a vaccine-related injury or death associated with the administration of a vaccine after October 1, 1988, if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings.”
Furthermore, the secretary of the federal department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, invoked the PREP Act on behalf of Moderna and Pfizer, further protecting them until 2024. The PREP Act, or Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, protects manufacturers from any liability except in the case of “willful misconduct.”
These protections for Moderna and Pfizer, the COVID vaccine manufacturers, are in effect until 2024.
Although the PREP Act also created the CICP (Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program) to provide benefits for victims of vaccines not covered by the VICP, it is much less successful for claimants. Just 29 out of 499 claims have been awarded; petitioners only have one year to file; and lawyers’ fees, suffering and damages are not covered.
As you can see, you have few avenues to success if you develop an injury or adverse event after receiving the COVID vaccine. The only possible road to proper compensation is by having an experienced team behind you. Paulson & Nace can offer the representation you need for vaccine injuries and other cases related to medical malpractice. For a free no-obligation consultation, give us a call at 202-463-1999 or use our online form. We’ll be there for you every step of the way.
Both an Emory School of Law graduate and MBA graduate of Goizueta Business School at Emory, Chris Nace focuses his practice on areas of medical malpractice, drug and product liability, motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination and other negligence and personal injury matters.