As the first doses of the new Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are being administered across the country, there are many lingering questions the general public has. They range from the vaccine’s effectiveness to its potential cost, and these are standard questions that regularly arise when any new vaccine is introduced to the public.
But when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine — a solution that was developed quickly and has undergone shorter trial periods than most vaccines — the question of possible side effects seems to be the most prevalent. While early side effects seem few and far between, if someone were to receive the vaccine and experience adverse effects, would the costs of addressing those effects be covered the same way any other vaccine injury would be? To understand why or why not, it’s first essential to understand how vaccines and general personal injury claims relate.
There is an entire U.S. federal government department that focuses solely on vaccine personal injury claims. They have been dubbed the “vaccine court,” but are officially known as the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The VICP was established in 1988 after a series of lawsuits threatened to erase the national supply of diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus vaccines based on scientifically unfounded claims. It was created not only as a way to protect the use of life-saving vaccines, but to also more lawfully compensate those people who are injured as a result of receiving a vaccine.
The court is a no-fault system in which injured people can have their cases heard and potentially be compensated for their vaccine injury.Taxes on childhood vaccines pay for the program, and this court receives around 500 petitions each year for monetary damages. The process works much the same as a lawsuit for other types of personal injury: A legal accusation is made by someone who says receiving a vaccine has injured them, whether it was due to the way it was administered or the adverse effects of the vaccine itself. For each case, the special masters of the court must take science and law into account to decide if this claim is true.
Under many normal circumstances, the VICP is the government entity that would handle most vaccine-related injury claims. The injured party would work together with their legal counsel to bring their claim to this department to be heard. But, as many of us have come to know, COVID-19 poses anything but “normal” circumstances. That means as of right now, the COVID-19 vaccine is not covered by the vaccine court, and it remains to be seen if that will change in the future.
But this doesn’t mean there’s no option for those who believe they have a COVID-19 vaccine injury claim to make.
The Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program
The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) has entities in place to help address certain injury claims when all other coverage has been exhausted. The Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP) is a payer of last resort, which means they may cover what remains unpaid or unpayable by third parties like health insurance carriers.
The CICP provides reimbursement for medical expenses as well as wages for lost employment income. If someone experienced an injury due to another party’s negligence, the CICP would potentially provide them with benefits for recuperating any money lost. Their benefits can even extend to providing compensation to beneficiaries in the event of a death as a result of a personal injury claim. As the payer of last resort, they would only dispense benefits to a claimant after all other avenues have been exhausted, such as health insurance, Medicare, or workers’ compensation. They can even help those without health insurance alleviate some of their financial stress.
While the CICP does not cover several other vaccines — such as influenza, tetanus, or the human papillomavirus — they are now hearing claims and offering to provide benefits in reaction to the new COVID-19 vaccine, as it’s currently not covered by the VICP as other vaccines are.
But coronavirus vaccine claims are still new territory, simply because it’s such a new virus and vaccine. It remains to be seen what kinds of benefits the CICP can expect to pay out.
Side Effects of the COVID-19 Vaccine
Because both this virus and this vaccine are so new, it’s hard to determine with any finality yet what the side effects of receiving the vaccine are. After reviewing the safety data it had available, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the vaccine for administration to patients 16 years and older. Based on evidence from ongoing clinical trials, the FDA has also determined that the known potential benefits of the vaccine currently outweigh the known potential risks of it.
Thus far, there have been minimal reports of severe side effects in those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, but that doesn’t mean they won’t potentially exist at some point, and so should be closely monitored. The most frequently reported side effect from the vaccine is injection site reaction, as is common with many other vaccine injections. Pain and redness around the area where the needle punctured the skin is common and tends to not be severe. It may be tender and a little painful to move the arm for a few days to a couple of weeks.
Other commonly reported effects of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have included fatigue, headache, and muscle pain. In most cases, most of these symptoms have been mild and resolved within a day or so. Even smaller numbers of patients have reported chills, joint pain, or fever following vaccination. As a two-dose vaccine, it’s also important to note that many of these patients reported these symptoms with more frequency after receiving the second dose.
There may be new ground to explore when it comes to figuring out what your coverage benefits could be if you receive the COVID-19 vaccine and experience any damaging side effects. If this sounds like you or someone you know, The Whisler Law Firm may be able to help you figure out what your options are for receiving the care and compensation you deserve. Call our office at (833) 529-5677 or contact us here to schedule a free consultation today.