Fact Finders: What happens if something goes wrong when you take COVID-19 vaccine?

Is it true that vaccine makers can’t be sued?
Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 9:46 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - On Fact Finders, we take your questions and find the answers. On this edition, we’re answering questions about lawsuits and vaccines.

The first question; if something goes wrong is it true that vaccine makers can’t be sued? The answer here is that’s true.

“You can’t easily sue a vaccine maker in the United States,” remarked Stanford Professor of Law Nora Freeman Engstrom.

Next question: if injured by a COVID-19 vaccine could I be compensated? The answer is possibly.

“You can only sue a vaccine maker if the vaccine maker has engaged in willful misconduct, an extremely high bar. That makes it almost impossible to sue a vaccine manufacturer,” says Freeman Engstrom.

Next question: do all vaccines fall under the same injury compensation system? This is False.

There at two systems. An older system covers traditional vaccine makers. The ones who make vaccines for Polio, Measles and the Flu. Congress created the newer system in 2005 to spur innovation during the emergence of the Avian Flu.

The newer system does not help you get a lawyer or pay for a lawyer. It’s less likely to accept claims. And, you may not get a reason for a denial.

A Health Resources and Services Administration Spokesperson told us, “COVID-19 vaccines are covered countermeasures under the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP).

National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) coverage and CICP coverage are triggered by different circumstances and address different categories of products. For a category of vaccines to be covered by the VICP, the category of vaccines must be recommended for routine administration to children or pregnant women by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, subject to an excise tax by federal law, and added to the VICP by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. No COVID-19 vaccine currently meets these criteria.

In the circumstances of a public health emergency, the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to issue a PREP Act Declaration (“Declaration”) that provides immunity from liability for any loss caused, arising out of, relating to, or resulting from administration or use of countermeasures to diseases, threats and conditions determined in the Declaration to constitute a present or credible risk of a future public health emergency. In light of the immunity granted for addressing the public health emergency, the PREP Act also created an alternative compensation mechanism, the CICP, which provides benefits to certain individuals or estates of individuals who may sustain a covered serious physical injury or to certain survivors of individuals who may die as the direct result of the administration or use of covered countermeasures identified in and administered or used under a PREP Act declaration. CICP coverage is not restricted only to vaccines, but to any countermeasure identified in the PREP Act declaration. In addition, no COVID-19 vaccine currently meets the requirements for inclusion in the VICP.”

A government spokesperson also provided compensation numbers to compare the old system and the new system, “Since FY 1989, the VICP (older system) has compensated 7,826 awards totaling $4,174,246,610 for an average of about $533,382.”

Since FY 2010, the CICP (newer system) has compensated 29 claims for a total of over $6M with an average of award of about $209,520.”

Next question: if someone feels they are injured by a vaccine, what’s the timeframe to file a claim?

The HRSA spokesperson told us, “you have one year from the date that the covered countermeasure was used or administered to file for CICP benefits.

For more information on how to file a claim with the CICP, please access this link: "

Final question: So, is the vaccine safe? This is TRUE.

“As I noted, the COVID-19 vaccine is very safe and it is very effective. So, when we talk about vaccine injury, that does not mean we should not get vaccines, anymore than when we talk about car wrecks. That does not mean we shouldn’t get in cars,” replied Freeman Engstrom.

If you’d like to read more about coronavirus vaccines and the law you might want to read this article that includes other questions and answers by Freeman Engstrom Coronavirus Vaccines and the Law

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