The most common vaccine injury that has resulted in compensation from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is an injury called SIRVA, or Shoulder Injury Resulting From Vaccine Administration. This injury does not necessarily have anything to do with the contents of the vaccine, but instead results from the manner in which the vaccine is injected. Reported cases of SIRVA are on the rise in the past several years. Since it has been added to the Vaccine Injury Table, it is now tops on the list of vaccine injuries.
Up until recently, little, if anything was known about SIRVA. This is a painful condition that can result in the loss of some of the function of the shoulder, depending on the severity of the case. While people often reported a dull ache in their shoulder after receiving a vaccination, there was little documented connection between the shots and any lasting shoulder damage. However, in 2006, there was a research paper that postulated that there was a tie between the vaccination injection and shoulder damage. Specifically, the fact that the injection is given too high on the shoulder can cause lasting damage. Since then, the number of documented cases of SIRVA seems to be on the increase.
In order to receive compensation from the VICP, the injury must be recognized through inclusion on the Vaccine Injury Table. SIRVA was added to this table in 2011. By 2018, SIRVA claims comprised half of the cases that resulted in compensation. This resulted in a total of nearly $80 million in compensation, and the annual amount is increasing rapidly. Compensation for each individual SIRVA claim ranges from around $35,000 to $150,000 depending on the severity of the symptoms.
The question remains whether the actual instances of SIRVA are on the increase or whether they were always occurring and awareness of the condition is simply increasing. The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. SIRVA did not suddenly appear when the first research paper describing the condition appeared. At the same time, the number and severity of the cases was not the same before flu vaccines became more prevalent.
Flu vaccines have become part of the accepted annual health routine for nearly the entire population. In the past, only a part of the population felt it necessary to obtain this vaccine every year. Now, insurances and workplaces encourage people to get the shot every year. This means that there are millions more vaccinations given now than in the past. At the same time, technicians who have not been properly trained are giving the injections. As demand increases, there is more of a chance that the person giving the injection has had only perfunctory instruction in how to give the injection. Instead of having to go into a doctor’s office to receive the injection, people can now get this shot in a pharmacy or their workplace while they are on the go. This means that there are more errant injections that can cause SIRVA.
Those who administer the vaccinations do not have an impetus to train people properly since they do not bear the consequences of their actions. VICP settlements come from the fund which derives its money from taxes assessed on each vaccination as opposed to coming from the pharmacy or doctor who injected the patient. Thus, there is no punishment for careless injections and there is no motivation to invest in any kind of training. Combined with a growing number of people receiving flu shots, and there is a reason for the increase in cases. Not only are many technicians improperly trained, but there is no mechanism for the person who gave the shot to be informed that they have injured someone. This means that they will not receive the proper training and can continue improperly injecting people.
At the same time, growing awareness of SIRVA means that cases that would have previously gone unreported are now becoming known. Especially now that people can receive compensation for SIRVA, it follows that more cases are being reported. The VICP allows those who are injured to receive compensation on an expedited timeline, so more cases of SIRVA are now documented. Whereas, in the past, someone may not have known that the pain in their shoulder had a name and a cause, now people are well aware of what they are experiencing. As a result, increases in SIRVA cases could be a self-fulfilling prophecy due to the heightened publicity.
While the Centers for Disease Control has launched an education program to teach the best way to administer vaccine shots, it is likely that the number of reported cases of SIRVA will keep rising. Given that people have three years from the time that they were injured to file a claim for compensation, many previous cases of the ailment will likely be documented in the coming year.
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