Vaccines are often mandatory, especially for children who are attending school. There are, however, risks which are associated with certain vaccines.
If an individual faces certain medical or health issues as a result of taking certain vaccines, the physician who administered the vaccine or the manufacturer of the vaccine may be held liable.
What are the Laws Regarding Vaccines?
Currently, there are no federal vaccination laws. However, there are laws in each of the fifty states which require that children who are attending public schools be vaccinated against certain diseases and illnesses, including:
- Rubella; and
- Varicella, or chickenpox.
All of the fifty states in the United States allow medical exemptions. Forty-seven states permit religious exemptions to vaccination.
There are seventeen states which allow personal belief or physiological exemptions. The District of Columbia permits religious and medical exemptions.
In the majority of cases, state vaccination laws will apply to both public schools and private schools. Typically, there are identical provisions for immunization and exemptions in both types of schools.
In addition, there are vaccination requirements for children who attend daycare as well as for college or university students, especially in public institutions. Across the United States, healthcare facilities are increasingly requiring that workers at the facilities be vaccinated for specific diseases in order to attempt to reduce outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.
In certain cases, there are facilities that are establishing these requirements because of the statutes and regulations in that state. State laws also dictate whether certain healthcare professionals are permitted to provide vaccinations to patients within the scope of their employment.
Can My Employer Mandate Vaccinations?
In many cases, an employer is permitted to make it mandatory for their employees to be vaccinated. Mandatory employer vaccinations, however, are restricted by different contract laws and religious exemptions that those discussed above.
An individual’s employment contract may specify the policies in the workplace regarding illnesses. If a contract does not mention mandatory vaccinations, an employer may not be able to require their employees to be vaccinated.
It is assumed that vaccination will be required in situations where employees are supposed to work around patients or who are exposed to certain illnesses. For example, a nurse or an individual who is working with children, such as a teacher in a public school, should expect a vaccination requirement as part of their employment.
With some employment situations, it may be considered a disqualification if an individual refuses to update their vaccines or if they are unable to be vaccinated because of genuine medical complications. This is because it may create an unnecessary danger, both for the employee and for the individuals they work with.
What is the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program?
Generally, vaccines are beneficial to society because they aid in the prevention of major diseases. The majority of individuals who receive vaccines do not face any serious side effects or problems.
Similar to other types of medications, vaccines may cause some side effects, but they are generally rare and very mild. In some cases, however, vaccines may lead to serious health problems, including major allergic reactions.
In addition to the legal system, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is an alternative that may be used to resolve petitions on vaccine injury. The VICP program is a no-fault alternative which was created in the 1980s due to the fact that lawsuits were filed against vaccine companies. Healthcare providers threatened to lead to vaccine shortages and reduced vaccination rates which, in turn, could have led to the resurgence of certain diseases which were preventable by those vaccines.
In the case of a serious injury resulting from a vaccine, the VICP may provide financial compensation to an individual if they file a petition and it is determined that they were injured by a vaccine that is covered by the VICP. Even in a case where it is not established that an individual was injured by a vaccine, they may still be able to receive compensation through a settlement.
An individual of any age who received a covered vaccine may file a petition if they believe they were injured due to that vaccine. Parents, legal guardians, and legal representatives are permitted to file for:
- Disabled adults; and
- Deceased individuals.
The following are the steps of the process to file a claim with the VICP:
- A petition is filed with the United States Court of Federal Claims;
- The medical staff at the United States Department of Health and Human Services will review the petition;
- The staff determines if the petition meets the medical criteria for compensation and makes a preliminary recommendation;
- The United States Department of Justice prepares a report that includes the medical recommendation and legal analysis and submits that report to the court;
- The report is then presented to a court-appointed special master who decides whether the individual should be compensated; and
- In many cases, this decision is made following a hearing where both parties are permitted to present evidence. If a petitioner is awarded compensation, the special master determines the amount of the compensation as well as the type of compensation;
- The Court of Federal Claims will then order the Department of Health and Human Services to award the petitioner compensation; and
- If certain requirements are met, even if the petition is dismissed, the Court can order the Department to pay attorneys’ fees and costs.
A petitioner, however, may reject the decisions of the court and may withdraw their petition within a certain timeline. The petitioner will then be able to file a suit in a civil court against the vaccine manufacturer and/or the medical professional who administered the vaccine that may have led to the individual’s injury.
What Types of Vaccines Does VICP Cover?
The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program covers mostly injuries which result from childhood vaccinations. The list of covered vaccines is subject to change as new vaccines are created and administered.
Currently, the vaccines covered by VICP include:
- Haemophilus Influenzae Type B;
- Hepatitis A and B;
- Varicella (Chicken Pox);
- Measles and Mumps (MMR);
- Rubella (MMR);
- Pneumococcal disease (PCV);
- Meningococcal disease;
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV);
- Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (DTP or DPT); and
What Types of Losses are Covered by the VICP?
Pursuant to the VICP, an injured individual may be reimbursed for the following:
- Past and future medical and rehabilitative care;
- Pain and suffering costs, up to $250,00;
- Lost wages or earnings; and
- Attorney’s fees and court costs, up to a reasonable amount.
If an individual is a representative of a deceased victim, they may be able to recover up to $250,000 as a death benefit in addition to attorney’s fees and court costs.
Should I Contact a Lawyer if I Think I’ve Been Injured by a Vaccine?
Vaccinations are often mandatory. It can be difficult to determine the actual cause of injury and the type of compensation you should receive following a vaccination injury.
It is important to be prepared to comply with the steps listed above and have evidence from a medical professional that supports your claim of injury. Because vaccine injury claims and lawsuits are complex and often require testimony from medical experts, it may be helpful to consult with a class action attorney to evaluate your claim.