Medical science continues to prove that for most people, vaccines are safe and effective. Yet despite precautions and extensive testing, some people suffer lifelong medical problems, or have died, as a result of being vaccinated.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) was developed to safeguard the U.S. national vaccine supply, and to compensate those who have developed problems from vaccines.
Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund Program to help you decide if this is an avenue for you or a loved one who may have been harmed by a vaccine.
Q: What kinds of injuries does the VICP pay claims for?
Different injuries result from different vaccines. You can find a table of adverse events at the VICP website.
The vaccine must have caused an injury that lasted for more than six months after vaccination, OR resulted in a hospital stay and surgery (both), OR resulted in death.
The list of vaccines and injuries on the VICP website is not complete, and compensation as been made for many vaccine-related injuries that are not listed. According to Anne Toale, an attorney who handles VICP cases, the table is a list of those injuries which are presumed to have been vaccine-caused, i.e., an automatic win unless the government rebuts the presumption. However, most cases in the program are "non-table injuries." Experts are used to prove the case.
Q: Who can file a claim with the VICP?
You may file a claim if you, yourself, were injured by a vaccine, if your child or dependent was injured by a vaccine, or if you are the legal representative of the estate of someone who was injured by a vaccine and you believe the vaccination caused the person's death.
You do not need to be a citizen of the United States.
Q: Are all vaccines given in the United States covered by the VICP?
No, not all vaccines are covered, although most vaccines recommended for children are covered, including MMR, polio, tetanus, pertussis and others. A list of the vaccines covered can be found on the VICP website.
Q: Is the annual flu vaccine covered by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund?
Yes. Trivalent flu vaccines, which describes the annual flu shot given in the United States each year, are covered by the VICP.
Q: Is there a time limit on when I need to file a claim?
Yes, there is a time limit depending on the adverse event that took place. In general, if someone is injured by a vaccine, they have three years from the onset of the first symptom to file a claim. If someone died from the vaccine, the claim must be filed within two years of the death and four years from the onset of symptoms.
Q: Is autism considered a vaccine-related adverse event?
Autism is dealt with through an ombudsman who works through the VICP and the U.S. Federal Court. Over the years, the case for autism and vaccines has changed, and the regard by the courts has changed with it.
Q: How long will it take to see a claim through the system, and get paid?
It may take two to three years to work through the process.
Q: What is the likelihood of receiving a payment from the VICP?
It depends on the vaccine and the resulting adverse event.
In general, about one-third of the claims filed are compensated for the injury or death. For some vaccines, the likelihood is very high (example: Of 8 claims for injuries from the Tdap vaccine, 7 were compensated and only one was turned down). For others, the likelihood of compensation is very low (example: Of 273 claims for injuries from the polio vaccine, 266 were turned down).
Q: Where does the money paid out to claimants come from?
In 1988, with the passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, a trust fund was established to be sure people who had been injured from vaccines would have a no-fault way to be compensated.
The money in the trust fund comes from a 75 cent tax on each vaccine dose, per disease prevented. (For example: The flu vaccine prevents one flu, so the tax is 75 cents. The MMR vaccine prevents three diseases, so the tax is $2.25.)
Oversight for the entire VICP program is shared by three departments of the U.S. government: Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
Q: So how do I file a claim with the Vaccine Injury Fund?
You will need an attorney to file on your behalf. There are attorneys who specialize in handling these claims. Interestingly, even when someone's claim is denied, the court may award attorney fees so the claimant does not incur a cost in making the claim.
Q: I think I have a claim. Where can I find an attorney to help me?
The National Vaccine Information Center maintains a list of attorneys who deal specifically with VICP claims. You can find their list of attorneys on the NVIC website.
Q: My question wasn't answered here. Where can I find more information?
Much more information can be found at the VICP website, maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Health Resources and Services Administration.