Vaccines are often mandatory but there are risks associated with certain vaccines. If individuals face certain health or medical issues as a result of taking certain vaccines, then the doctor who administered the vaccine or the manufacturer who made the vaccine can be held liable.
What are the Laws Regarding Vaccines?
There are currently no federal vaccination laws but there are laws in all fifty states which require that children who are educated at public schools be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, rubella and varicella (chickenpox). All 50 states allow medical exemptions while 47 states allow religious exemptions.
Seventeen states allow philosophical or personal belief exemptions. The District of Columbia allows medical and religious exemptions. In most cases, state vaccination laws apply to both public and private schools, with identical provisions for immunization and exemptions. There are also vaccination requirements for children who attend daycare and for college/university students (especially for public institutions).
Also, across the country, healthcare facilities are increasingly requiring that healthcare workers be vaccinated for certain diseases so that outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases can be reduced.
In some cases, the facilities are establishing these requirements because of certain state statutes and regulations. State laws also determine whether certain healthcare professionals can provide vaccinations to patients within the scope of their employment.
Can Employers Mandate Vaccinations?
In most cases, employers can make it mandatory for their employees to be vaccinated. However, mandatory employer vaccinations are restricted by different contract laws as well as by religious exemptions.
Many employment contracts may specify what are the policies regarding illnesses. If the contract does not mention mandatory vaccinations, then the employer may not be able to require that their employees be vaccinated.
It is assumed that vaccination is required in cases where the employee is supposed to work around patients or exposed to certain illnesses. For example, nurses or individuals working with children, like school teachers in public institutions, should expect to be required to be vaccinated.
In fact, it those instances it can be considered a disqualification if you refuse to update your vaccines or are unable to be vaccinated due to genuine medical complications. It is reasonable for an employer that it is unnecessarily dangerous, both for the employee and those they interact with.
What is the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program?
In general, vaccines are beneficial to society because they prevent major diseases and most people who get vaccines do not face any serious problems. Like other medicines, vaccines can cause side effects but most of these side effects are very rare and very mild.
However, in a few cases, a vaccine can lead to a serious health problem such as a major allergic reaction. Besides the regular legal system, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is another alternative for resolving petitions on vaccine injury.
This program is a no-fault alternative and it was created in the 1980s because lawsuits against vaccine companies and healthcare providers threatened to lead to vaccine shortages and reduced vaccination rates which in turn could have led to the resurgence of diseases which were preventable by vaccines.
In cases of serious injury from vaccinations, the VICP may provide financial compensation to individuals if they file a petition and if it is found that they were injured by a VICP-covered vaccine.
Even in cases where it was not established that the individual was injured by the vaccine, a petitioner may still be able to receive compensation through a settlement. Individuals of any age who received a covered vaccine can file a petition if they believe that they were injured because of that vaccine while parents, legal guardians and legal representatives can file for children, disabled adults and deceased individuals. These are the steps of the process:
- A petition is filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims;
- The medical staff at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reviews the petition;
- The staff determines if the petition meets the medical criteria for compensation and makes a preliminary recommendation.
- A report is prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice which includes the medical recommendation and legal analysis and the department submits it to the court;
- The report is then presented to a court-appointed special master who decides whether the individual should be compensated; and
- This decision is often made after holding a hearing where both parties can present evidence. If the petitioner is given compensation, the special master determines the amount as well as the type of compensation.
- The Court of Federal Claims orders the Department of Health and Human Services to award compensation.
- If certain requirements are met, even if the petition is dismissed, the Court can order the Department to pay attorneys’ fees and costs.
However, petitioners can reject the decision of court and they can withdraw their petitions within certain timelines. The petitioners can then file a suit in a civil court against the vaccine manufacturer and/or the medical professional who administered the vaccine which may have led to the injuries.
Should I Contact a Lawyer If I Think I’ve Been Injured by a Vaccine?
Vaccines are often mandatory and determining the proper cause of injury and the type of compensation after a vaccination injury can be difficult. You must be prepared to comply with the above steps, as well as have some sort of medical professional who can support your claim.
When it comes to a complex lawsuit like a vaccine injury, it would be beneficial to consult with a local class action attorney if you think you have a genuine injury.