Updated: December 29, 2008
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program compensates people who are determined to have been injured by vaccines.
No vaccine is 100% safe and sometimes people are injured after receiving a vaccine—paralytic poliomyelitis caused by live polio vaccine is a rare side effect of oral polio vaccine, for example. Caring for people who have a vaccine-related injury is expensive for the family and for society. In most cases, rare vaccine injuries are no one’s fault but they are an unfortunate consequence of protecting society from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Also, in the early 1980s, a wave of vaccine-injury lawsuits resulted in several manufacturers withdrawing from vaccine production—the costs of some vaccines skyrocketed; some vaccines were in short supply. The concern that children would become at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases grew.
To address these issues, in 1986 Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, which, among other things, established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).
The VICP compensates people a federal court determines to have met legal standards for having been injured by vaccines; these standards do not need to meet the standards of scientific causation. People who file claims are not required to prove negligence on the part of the health care provider or the manufacturer.
Funds from a tax on each dose of vaccine are placed in a trust fund to be used to pay the compensation awards.
The VICP is a no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system. The U. S. Court of Federal Claims decides who will be compensated. Some are compensated based on the Vaccine injury Table.
The Table—developed by a panel of experts—consists of a list of injuries and conditions presumed to be caused by vaccines, and the time periods in which the first symptom of these injuries and conditions must occur after receiving the vaccine. Unless a different cause is found, the court presumes that the condition was caused by the vaccine if the first symptom occurs within the listed time periods.
When a condition is not listed on the Table or it occurs outside the time period on the Table, the claimant must prove that the vaccine caused the problem—either based on medical records or the opinions of experts. The table is updated as medical research uncovers more information on the side effects of vaccines.
People who file claims may qualify for compensation in three ways:
In general, an injury claim must be filed within 3 years after the first symptom of the vaccine injury. A death claim must be filed within 2 years of the death and 4 years after the first symptom of the injury that caused the death.
In general, all US licensed vaccines recommended by the CDC to be given universally to children become covered under the VICP. Adult injuries are also covered by the VICP. The vaccines covered by the VICP are:
An injury or death associated with an adulterant or contaminant intentionally added to a vaccine is not covered by the VICP. Components of US licensed vaccines like the diluent and additives—such as stabilizers, adjuvants and preservatives like thimerosal—are not considered adulterants or contaminants.
Under the VICP, awards for death cases are limited to $250,000. However, there is no limitation on the amount of an award in a vaccine-related injury, although, there may be certain restrictions under the law. The VICP reimburses the attorneys’ fees and costs regardless of whether or not compensation is awarded, as long as the case was filed on a good faith and reasonable basis.
Between 1988 and 2008 (January), 12,400 petitions have been filed with the VICP and 6,702 have been adjudicated. Awards to individuals with an injury judged to be vaccine-related have averaged about $933,000. Compensation is based on factors such as cost of care for the injury and for future care, loss of productivity, changed quality of life, and other factors.
You can find more information at the VICP Web site: