No vaccine is 100% safe, and that includes coronavirus vaccines. Unfortunately, lawyers are already warning that people who are injured by COVID-19 vaccines might have a hard time getting paid.
Vaccines are designed to trigger the immune system. In some people, the immune system overreacts and causes a severe allergic reaction, paralysis, brain damage, or other side effects — including death.
Even if the risk is low, thousands of people could potentially develop these side effects after billions of people get vaccinated in a mass-immunization program.
In the U.S., pharmaceutical companies are shielded from lawsuits involving vaccine injuries. Instead of a lawsuit, people who are injured by vaccines must seek payments for their medical bills and lost income through a vaccine court — the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).
But coronavirus vaccines are different. Unlike flu shots and routine vaccines for children, COVID-19 vaccine cases would go through another court that critics say is a “black hole” for getting paid.
This other court, called the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP), handles vaccine injuries after pandemics and bioterrorist attacks. Examples include anthrax and H1N1 vaccines.
Unfortunately, very few claims have ended in payouts. Out of 485 claims in the CICP, only 39 people got paid for their injuries — only 8% of claims. In stark contrast, the VICP paid compensation in about 75% of claims in recent years.
The payouts are also much smaller. Those 39 people each got paid around $150,000 on average, for a total payout of $5.7 million since the program began in 2010 — less than half of a typical VICP payout.
The VICP has paid an average of $351,000 per person since 2015, and multi-million dollar payouts are not uncommon. Overall, the VICP has paid out $4.3 billion to 7,423 injured people since 1988.
People who are injured by coronavirus vaccines will face other major hurdles. If they want an attorney, they will have to pay for one themselves. No expert witnesses or appeals will be allowed, and they will only have 1 year to file a claim.
The short time-limit was a big problem for Lawrence K., a 70 year-old man from California who developed a baseball-sized cyst on his arm where he received an H1N1 flu shot in 2009. By the time he got a hearing, the judge said he was too late.
“They told me to go to Congress to change the vaccine statute of limitation laws,” he said.
Past pandemics also prove that mass-immunization programs can cause severe side effects that no one was expecting. For example, the 2009 H1N1 flu shot Pandemrix® was linked to narcolepsy in several European countries.
In the U.S., the 1976 swine flu vaccine triggered a type of paralysis called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which stopped the mass-immunization program after just 10 weeks. The risk was estimated at less than 1 in 100,000 people, but because so many people were vaccinated, about 450 people developed GBS, and of them, 25 died.