Vaccines are intended to protect human beings from dangerous and often life-threatening diseases, such as influenza, hepatitis, and HPV, just to name a few. However, on rare occasions, the side effects associated with some vaccines can lead to severe complications. When this occurs, victims of vaccine injuries may be entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering.

Types of Vaccines

There are literally dozens of vaccines on the market. Some of the most common include:

Most vaccines are given by injection. However, some may be administered orally and one is even sprayed into the nose.

How Vaccines Work

Vaccines contain either a weakened pathogen (virus or bacteria) or parts of the pathogen that cause a specific disease. As such, they mimic the action of the pathogen and trigger an immune response that prepares the body to prevent illness in the event of a real attack from the actual bacteria or virus.

Vaccines fall into 1 of 4 categories:

Live-attenuated vaccines:

These vaccines contain a weakened form of the pathogen that causes the disease. As such, they create a strong, long-lasting immune response. However, they are not appropriate for people with weakened immune systems or those who’ve undergone an organ transplant.

Examples of live-attenuated vaccines include:

  • MMR Vaccine
  • Rotavirus Vaccine
  • Smallpox Vaccine
  • Chickenpox Vaccine
  • Yellow Fever Vaccine

Inactivated Vaccines

Vaccines in this category contain a dead version of the virus or bacteria that causes a disease. Because they generally trigger a weaker immune response, several doses – booster shots – may be required over a period of time.

Examples of inactivated vaccines include:

  • Hepatitis A Vaccine
  • Flu Vaccine (shot only)
  • Polio Vaccine (shot only)

Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines

These types of vaccines contain only a portion of the disease-causing pathogen, such as its protein, sugar, or capsid (the covering around the germ). Vaccines in these categories trigger a very strong immune response. They are also appropriate for nearly everyone, including those with compromised immune systems.

Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines include:

  • Hib Vaccine
  • Hepatitis B Vaccine
  • HPV
  • Whooping Cough (part of the DTaP combined vaccine)
  • Pneumococcal Vaccine
  • Meningococcal Vaccine
  • Shingles Vaccine

Toxoid Vaccines

Toxoid vaccines contain only the part of the pathogen that causes the disease, known as the toxin. Thus, the immune response is targeted only to that part of the germ.

Toxoid vaccines include:

  • Diphtheria Vaccine
  • Tetanus Vaccine

Toxoid vaccines require periodic booster shots to ensure ongoing protection.

Vaccine Injuries

There is absolutely no doubt that vaccines have saved millions of lives. However, in very rare cases, vaccines may cause severe allergic reactions and other serious – or even life-threatening – complications and side effects.

Serious vaccine side effects may include:

Compensation for Vaccine Injuries

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) was created in the 1980s, after vaccine lawsuits threatened to cause shortages and reduce U.S. vaccination rates.

The program is open to anyone – adults and children – who suffered an injury they believe was the result of a covered vaccine.

Vaccines covered by the NVICP include:

  • Diphtheria Vaccines (e.g., DTP, DTaP, Tdap, DT, Td, TT)
  • Hib Vaccine
  • Hepatitis A Vaccine
  • Hepatitis B Vaccine
  • HPV Vaccine
  • Seasonal Flu Vaccine
  • Pertussis (e.g., DTP, DTaP, Tdap)
  • Pneumococcal conjugate (e.g., PCV)
  • Polio (e.g., OPV or IPV)
  • Rotavirus (e.g., RV)
  • Rubella (e.g., MMR, MR, R)
  • Tetanus (e.g., Td)
  • Varicella (Chickenpox) Vaccine

The NVICP’s  Vaccine Injury Table  lists injuries and/or conditions associated with some covered vaccines. It is presumed that the covered vaccine caused an injury if:

  • The first symptom of the condition occurred within the time period specified by the table.
  • The injury meets the definition included in the Table.

This applies even if a covered vaccine is administered “off-label” or contrary to recommendations established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control or the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practice.

If an injury does not appear in the Vaccine Injury Table or does not meet the Table requirements, claimants must present expert witness testimony, medical records, medical opinions, or other evidence proving that the vaccine caused the injury and/or condition.

Since 1988, more than $3.9 billion in compensation has been paid out via the NVICP. About 80% of all compensation awarded by the program is the result of a negotiated settlement between the parties.

  1. HHS (2018) “Vaccine Types”
  2. HRSA (2018) “National Vaccine Compensation Program”
  3. HRSA (2017) “Covered Vaccines”
Last Modified: July 11, 2018

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