Ready for a Flu Vaccine? What You Should Know About SIRVA and Payment for Vaccine Injury Claims.

Published on October 5, 2018 by Sandy Liebhard

Flu season is nearly upon us, which means that millions of Americans will be looking to get a flu shot.

The influenza vaccine undoubtedly saves lives. But like any other drug, it can cause some rare, but very serious side effects.

These complications include SIRVA (Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration), a painful condition that may continue to plague victims well beyond the end of flu season.

Flu Shot Accounted for Majority of SIRVA Injury Claims Last Year

SIRVA occurs when a vaccine is incorrectly administered into the shoulder joint or bursa, rather than the deltoid muscle.

Any vaccine can cause SIRVA when given incorrectly. But because the flu shot is the mostly commonly-administered vaccine in the United States, it accounts for the majority of SIRVA claims paid through the federal government’s National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

In 2017, 67% of SIRVA claims compensated by the program involved the influenza vaccine.

That year, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program paid out $20 million in total SIRVA claims related to the flu shot and other inoculations.

What’s more, nearly half — 602 out of 1243 petitions – of the vaccine injury lawsuits filed with the Program last year cited SIRVA as the primary injury.

As of July, 284 SIRVA claims had already been filed with the Vaccine Compensation Program.

What is Being Done to Prevent SIRVA?

According to a recent study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 40% of vaccine-related shoulder problems, including SIRVA, reported from 2010 through 2016 occurred when shots were administered at a pharmacy or store clinic.

32% followed administration at a doctor’s office or hospital, while 12% occurred when vaccines were given at a workplace clinic.

The CDC has commissioned two studies aimed at finding ways to prevent vaccine-related shoulder injuries. Both are expected to be completed sometime next year.

Unfortunately, there are no efforts underway to inform medical personnel when they’ve made a vaccine administration error that results in SIRVA or provide these individuals with additional training.

SIRVA Symptoms and Complications

SIRVA symptoms can appear within minutes to hours of vaccine administration, and may include:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Limited shoulder mobility
  • Shoulder swelling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or fingers

The most severe cases of SIRVA can lead to permanent complications, including rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder, bursitis, tendonitis, and brachial neuritis.

Background on National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was established by the federal government to compensate individuals who have suffered certain covered injuries following vaccination.

Administered by the division of US Health & Human Services, the program has paid out $3.9 billion in vaccine injury claims since it was established in 1986. The compensation fund is financed through a 75-cent tax on every vaccine administered in the United States.

Nearly 75% the claims paid through the National Vaccine Injury Program are the result of negotiated settlements, meaning that no official determination has been made as to whether a vaccine was responsible for the claimant’s alleged injury.


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