As the number of vaccines on the CDC vaccination schedule skyrockets (from 16 doses in 1953 to 49 doses in 2013), more and more children are experiencing reactions to these vaccines. Pharmaceutical companies have no liability thanks to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, and so the government has set up a fund to compensate families with injured children. By July 2015, over $3 BILLION dollars has been paid out to injured children and their families.
Ann Corell, Ph.D. has compiled information relevant to this topic, explaining where to find information about vaccine reactions, how to report them, and what to do if your child is injured.
What You Need to Know about Vaccine Reactions
Ann Corell, Ph.D.
WHERE TO FIND INFORMATION
When you take your child in to get a routine immunization, the nurses will give you an information sheet about that specific immunization that tells why it is important and some side effects to look for in case of a reaction. What most people don’t know is how common reactions are and where to find this information. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) manage a database called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) where reactions are reported and cataloged for each vaccine. The database can be accessed at https://vaers.hhs.gov/index. While the reactions and side effects listed in VAERS are temporally related to vaccination, the database isn’t there to prove that the vaccine caused a reaction, but rather to catalog reactions that could be used in later research to indicate that a certain vaccine is causing many of the same types of reactions and can guide researchers.
HOW TO USE VAERS
Both medical professionals and patients can make a report to VAERS to report a reaction or illness that occurred after vaccination. The medical staff or patient may submit a report via a form online, over the phone, mailed, or faxed. VAERS suggests several steps to report a reaction:
- Contact your health care provider
- Report the reaction
- Submit Follow-Up Information
- Visit the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund site
VAERS has provided a useful tutorial on how to access the database. I highly recommend watching the short video as it has visuals of the pages inside the system.
There are two ways to look at the data. You can download broad data files into a database or spreadsheet. However, most people find the WONDER program easier to search for specific vaccines and reactions. You are able to use the WONDER program to search public data in an easy to use dropdown form. One can search the database here to find reactions reported about specific vaccines or manufacturers:
WHAT IS THE NATIONAL VACCINE INJURY COMPENSATION FUND?
Should you or your child have a severe reaction to a vaccine that requires medical care or in case of a death as a result of a vaccine, the government administers a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund (NVICP). The NVICP was born in 1986 as a means of encouraging development of new vaccines when Congress exempted vaccine manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies form liability. Families are required to file petition that will be heard by a Special Master in the Federal Vaccine Court. Attorney fees are paid by the government in most cases, so families are able to seek counsel and be represented at no cost to them. Cases must be submitted within 3 years of the date of the vaccine, which means the all the relevant information and medical history needs to be together in the petition before that day in order to be eligible for compensation under the fund. The process for a case in vaccine court can be found here and ( www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/ ) is as follows:
- Individual files petition with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims
- U.S. Department of Health and Human services reviews the case to determine if it meets criteria for compensation and gives a recommendation.
- The U.S. Department of Justice develops a report and medical recommendation and submits it to the court.
- A court appointed Special Master is appointed to determine whether compensation should be given. Hearings will happen and evidence is presented. The Special Master decides on compensation and how it will be awarded.
- The Court orders the compensation and even if dismissed, if certain requirements are met, the Court will pay the attorney fees and costs.
The average case spends about 10 years in vaccine court and all records and finding are public record and can be searched here at http://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/aggregator/sources/7. One can search cases using keywords to find cases that met certain criteria or for certain vaccines. This can be very useful in reading cases on, for example, the flu shot. You can read the petitions, findings of the court, and compensated offered or settlements agreed upon.
IF YOUR CHILD REACTS OR IS INJURED…
Both the VAERS database and the NVICP database of cases adjudicated can be useful for parents wanting more information about adverse reactions to vaccination. The information provided between these two websites provides parents a good place to start when trying to understand vaccine reactions and vaccine injury that may require long-term medical care and can be compensated by the federal government. Remember, record keeping is essential and the earlier you document the better.
For more information on vaccines, vaccine safety, or state laws on vaccination, one can visit the National Vaccine Information Center ( www.nvic.org).
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