Legal Steps Following a Vaccine Injury
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By Leah Durant
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), is available to provide compensation to injured parties. As part of the program, injured parties may obtain legal assistance from qualified vaccine attorneys to help determine whether compensation may be had. All costs and fees associated with the representation of vaccine injuries is paid for by the Court and not by the injured party, so hiring an attorney comes at little or no cost to the individual claiming injury.
Although the VICP is available to provide compensation for certain kinds of vaccine-related injuries, the first step is learning how to identify whether an injury or vaccine-related illness has occurred. Below is an explanation of the kinds of issues that should be considered when discussing the possibility of vaccine-related pain or injury.
Signs to look for following the administration of a vaccine
If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered a vaccine-related injury, it is important to seek prompt medical attention. Below are commonly seen signs or symptoms that may result following administration of a vaccine.
Shoulder pain. Sharp, stabbing or aching, pain that occurs in the muscles of the shoulder is easily one of the most common types of injury that can result following vaccination. If proper safety precautions are not carefully followed during administration of a vaccine, many problems may result such as; a vaccine that penetrates too deeply into the deltoid muscle and damages the underlying tissues and muscles. Vaccines can also be given too high up on the shoulder, causing the needle to penetrate bony structures of the shoulder, resulting in immense pain, reduced strength, and diminished range of motion. Should you find that you or a loved one has experienced shoulder pain or dysfunction following vaccination, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. In addition to supporting a claim for vaccine compensation, obtaining prompt treatment along with a proper diagnosis can be key to ensuring a healthy and full recovery.
Stiffness. It is normal to feel some tenderness or discomfort following the administration of a vaccine given by injection. However, should the pain persist, or be followed by sharp, stabbing, or aching pain that does not resolve, these may be signs of a shoulder injury due to vaccine administration.
Redness or swelling. This is a more immediate concern, because inflammation, redness or swelling may be a sign of allergic reaction. Although such symptoms are probably not life-threatening, individuals experiencing such symptoms are well advised to seek immediate medical attention from a physician, preferably one specializing in shoulder pain or injury.
Loss of sight, muscle paralysis, or loss of bladder control. These symptoms are an immediate cause for concern. If you or a loved one has experienced gait disturbance, difficulty speaking, severe pain, sensitivity to hot and/or cold temperatures, or tingling or numbness, it is advised that you seek immediate medical attention from a physician specializing in neurologic injuries.
Types of Vaccine Injuries
Now that we have discussed common symptoms to be aware of, below is a discussion of the more common types of vaccine injuries:
Torn rotator cuff (shoulder injury). This injury involves the muscles that grant the arm a full range of motion. Having a torn rotator cuff means the injured party may not capable of moving his or her arm in the same way in which they did prior to injury. These kinds of injuries may manifest as pain that is sharp, stabbing, or dull and aching. If you or a loved one is unable to hold objects or sleep on the injured side, these may be signs of rotator cuff injury.
Bursitis (shoulder injury). The bursa sac contains a protective fluid that reduces the friction an individual would otherwise feel when bones, muscles and tendons rub together during movement. Bursitis is the inflammation of this area, and can cause severe pain or discomfort. This injury is usually the result of an injection that was placed too high on the shoulder. If calcium deposits were previously present in the affected area, the resulting pain can be excruciating.
Adhesive capsulitis or Frozen Shoulder (shoulder injury). Symptoms are initially mild before becoming progressively worse until they finally subside. This “frozen shoulder” as it is sometimes called causes pain and stiffness at the joint. Treatment may involve specialized range-of-motion exercises, cortisone injections, dry needling procedures, or even corrective surgery.
Brachial neuritis (shoulder injury). This is an injury involving the nerves that travel from the spinal cord to several other areas of the body, including the shoulder. Pain in the shoulder might eventually transition to paralysis and loss of sensation in the affected area. This is a long-term injury and can last for months or years. Most cases of brachial neuritis (also known as Parsonage Turner Syndrome), occur following the administration of a Tetanus vaccine, although cases have also resulted following the administration of flu and other routine vaccinations.
Tendonitis (shoulder injury). This injury is often caused by constant athletic activity, but can also occur following other activities. Tendonitis is extremely painful and can occur when a tendon becomes inflamed. Tendonitis often occurs when tissues are damaged and inflamed. It is most cases of tendonitis, rest, anti-inflammatory medication and an ice pack several times a day will reduce swelling and usually assist in the healing process.
Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). When the body is allergic to components in a vaccine, the body may react in unexpected ways. One of the most severe reactions that can occur anaphylaxis shock. This reaction can be quick and devastating, resulting in inflammation, hives, low blood pressure, and in the worst cases, even death. This is why allergic reactions are not to be taken lightly. Still, the number of anaphylaxis-related deaths following vaccination is extremely low.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome or GBS (autoimmune condition). This disease causes an individual’s immune system to attack nerve cells as if they were foreign agents in the body. This can cause debilitating effects, some of which may be connected to administration of the flu and Tetanus vaccines. Symptoms may include in severe pain, and an inability to walk or stand for prolonged periods of time.
Transverse Myelitis or TM (inflammation of spinal cord). The spinal cord protects nerve fibers. When the spinal cord is not functioning properly, nerve signals sent to the brain may not be received. This may result in pain, weakness and paralysis, and can lead to more serious side effects such loss of bladder control. The worst cases can result in permanent disability. No direct cause has been found, but some cases of TM have been linked to certain vaccines and many VICP cases alleging this condition and are compensated.
Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, or ADEM (neurological disorder). This disorder causes one’s immune system to attack myelin in much the same way that Guillain-Barre Syndrome causes the immune system to attack nerve cells. ADEM can cause muscle weakness, paralysis, loss of vision, permanent nerve damage and, in the most severe cases, even death.
The above list, although not exhaustive, can serve as a primer of some of the injuries that may occur following vaccination.
If you or a loved one has experienced pain or injury following vaccination, then you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Obtaining the representation of a qualified vaccine attorney will provide you with information needed to ensure you obtain any compensation to which you may be entitled.
Leah Durant is a former appellate attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, where she argued cases before several U.S. Courts of Appeal. In her current role Leah Durant serves as a vaccine attorney who specializes in vaccine injury claims covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.