If you are injured by vaccines in the United States the only place you could seek compensation is in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The program is located at the Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was borne in an environment where there were huge numbers of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for vaccine related injuries.
Back in the late 80’s, United States’ health officials realized that vaccines can cause injury. At the time, there was an uptick in childhood vaccine injury lawsuits due to the partially dead virus in the vaccine or allergic reactions to the extra ingredients, such as stabilizers and preservatives.
As lawsuits were filed against the pharmaceutical companies, representatives for the companies pushed back and told the government that they would stop making vaccines if something wasn’t done about the lawsuits. With little choice, the government created a “no fault” system and “National Childhood Vaccination Injury Act” in an attempt to protect the companies while compensating injured consumers and/or their families.
The National Childhood Vaccination Injury Act created a special court system to handle lawsuits through the Office of Special Masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Essentially, anyone who believes they have a vaccine-related injury due to a covered vaccine can sue in this court. People who are injured have to show: 1. a medical theory connecting the injury to the vaccine; 2. the injury was not due to a pre-existing ailment; and 3. the time between the vaccine and the injury is what medical science would expect. The controversy about the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program focuses on how difficult it could be to prove your injury was caused by a vaccine. However, those who prove their claims typically receive between tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements. According to report from NPR, It appears that injuries involving children are less likely to be compensated than adults.
NPR has recently covered the Vaccine Injury Compensation program and they two separate Vaccine Court cases:
- A middle-aged woman named Lisa Smith received a flu vaccine at her local pharmacy in 2005. Within a week, she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome — a rare medical condition that has been directly linked to flu vaccines. The court gave her a large settlement for an undisclosed amount.
- A one-year-old boy, Nicholas Wildman, was vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella with the MMR vaccine at a pediatrician’s office in 1997. Shortly after, Nicholas began crying and screaming. His parents, Dave and Mary, treated him for fever and pain with children’s Tylenol. When the symptoms subsided, Nicholas no longer behaved normally. His parents learned a year later that he had brain damage. They also sued in the Vaccine Court, but the majority of current research supports the idea that the type of reaction Nicholas had can’t be connected to the vaccine even though, as one reader noted in the article comments, brain damage is a rare side effect. The court required his parents to get a medical statement confirming a connection. Not one doctor would help and the court threw out the case.
Injuries to children was the main thrust behind the creation of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and children have the biggest challenge in getting compensated. Both NPR pieces show that when it comes to burden of proof in the Vaccine Court, injured adults are in a far better position to prove claims than the parents of young children.
Injured adults can make connections with their experiences and speak for themselves. Parents of vaccine injured children must rely on observational evidence and doctors who might fear ruining their careers by supporting any claim about a young childhood vaccination injury.
Links to NPR Stories
- Vaccine Court Aims To Protect Patients And Vaccines
- Are The Vaccine Court’s Requirements Too Strict?
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