Many of us recognize the benefits of receiving vaccinations, since we’ve been indoctrinated with the process throughout our lives. At a very early age we begin a series of childhood vaccines (e.g. DTP, MMR, etc.), up until the present where the influenza vaccine seems to be more age appropriate. We all know the benefits of being healthy and our fear of getting sick tends to put all other concerns out of mind. Yet, we rarely consider the possibility of adverse effects from the vaccinations we receive throughout life and what should happen if by chance, in our pursuit to stay healthy, the vaccination actually causes harm. Most vaccines carry with it known side effects, with some more substantial than others, but even more concerning are the non-recognized side effects that being to appear years after approval by the FDA. Presently, vaccines are being proposed as a source causing autism in children. However, with physician hesitance to diagnose children with the disease, especially at very young ages when the symptoms have not yet completely manifested themselves, the failure to diagnose in close proximity with any vaccination makes proof of the disease’s origin even harder.
In a “sue happy” society, many people get turned off at the idea of bringing a suit to get compensation for their injuries despite being injured through no fault of their own. Recognizing that the potential for injury, although rare, still existed for those administered various vaccines, the federal government set up a “no fault” type program called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. An alternative to a traditional lawsuit, a person injured by a qualifying vaccine can petition to receive monetary compensation from a designated trust account, which is funded by a $0.75 excise tax on each dosage per disease of vaccine purchased (i.e. the trivalent influenza vaccine prevents one disease while the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine prevents three diseases). Vaccines covered by the trust fund are subject to change, but currently include the following:
- Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTP, DTaP, Tdap, DT, Td, or TT)
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
- Hepatitis A (HAV)
- Hepatitis B (HBV)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Influenza (TIV, LAIV) [given each year during the flu season]
- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR, MR, M, R)
- Meningococcal (MCV4, MPSV4)
- Polio (OPV or IPV)
- Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV)
- Rotavirus (RV)
- Varicella (VZV)
A person injured by a vaccine can pursue compensation through this program for reasonable past and future non-reimbursable medical expenses, custodial care and rehabilitative services; lost earnings; up to $250,000 for actual and projected pain and suffering; and, in the case of vaccine related death, up to $250,000 as a death benefit for the estate of the decedent.
Many people choose to petition through an attorney due to the stringent technicalities that must be followed in order to obtain compensation such as filing deadlines, voluminous amounts of required medical and non-medical records, proof of causation of injury, etc. This program has an advantageous feature that allows the Program to pay for attorneys’ fees for the petitioner instead of fees, hourly or a percentage of recovered amounts, being deducted from an amount awarded to the injured party, if any.
Another caveat of the Program allows a petitioner in certain situations to withdraw his or her petition or decline the award amount and pursue a claim in civil court against the vaccine manufacturer or the person who administered the vaccine. However, consulting an attorney about an injured party’s options is preferable because of the interplay of the many relevant statutes of limitations (i.e. deadlines within which a party must bring a suit) and only an attorney is qualified to aid a party in weighing those options based upon that party’s particular circumstances along with the current status of the law.