The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has paid out over $25 million in damages to victims of serious shoulder injuries related to vaccine administration in the United States so far this year, according to WSOC-TV.
Over 220 people have been compensated so far in 2016 for SIRVA — shoulder injury related to vaccine administration — a painful and debilitating side effect that sometimes comes after vaccination.
Dr. Tom Shimabukuro of the CDC says that the condition is rare. These injuries occur when vaccines are not given in the proper part of the shoulder. Vaccines should be given in the thick portion of the deltoid muscle, he says, not higher up near the shoulder.
Shimabukuro says that some pain is normal with any vaccine, but it is much more extreme and long lasting for those who experience SIRVA.
“What I’m talking about here is pain and weakness and loss of function that far exceeds and lasts longer than we would normally expect.”
Wired explains that when a vaccine is injected too high on the arm, the needle goes into the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that protects the tendons of the shoulder, instead of into the arm muscle. Since vaccines contain ingredients designed to provoke the immune system, these ingredients inadvertently provoke the immune system to attack the bursa when this happens, leading to severe pain and a lack of mobility.
Medscape describes a typical case history of a 55-year-old woman who sought medical care after three months of pain in her left shoulder after receiving a flu vaccine and a tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccination. They say that her history and symptomatology were usual for a patient with SIRVA — an absence of prior shoulder dysfunction, a rapid onset of pain, and limited range of motion.
“She described her pain as dull/achy, 5 out of 10 (10-point scale with 10 being the worst pain) at rest, and exacerbating with shoulder manipulation, most notably with abduction. In addition, she reported persistent 3–4/10 dull pain at rest, sleep disturbances due to pain, and difficulty with lifting, carrying and driving.”
After an ineffective corticosteroid injection and several more months, her pain lessened, but it was still noticeable and she still had restricted motion in that arm.
Medscape notes that SIRVA is not only just as painful and debilitating, but also expensive to treat.
“An uncomplicated flu shot is often free of charge; however, our patient’s initial ‘free’ flu shot resulted in more than $18,000 of healthcare charges, not including the follow-up MRI and office appointments with her orthopedic surgeon. Fortunately, our patient has insurance and had to only pay about 20% of the cost out-of-pocket, unlike thousands of uninsured Americans receiving yearly vaccinations at local pharmacies and clinics nationwide.”
Steroids and physical therapy can help SIRVA patients recover, but some patients have permanent injuries from the vaccines.
The number of SIRVA injuries has been rising in recent years. Some experts believe that this is caused in part by the rise in vaccinations being offered in locations like pharmacies where those who administer the vaccines may not have proper training on where to insert the vaccines.
SIRVA is covered under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, a $3.6 billion fund that protects vaccine makers and those who give the shots from lawsuits. The federal program is funded by patients, who pay a 75-cent tax that is added on to the price of every vaccine given.
Victims of vaccine injuries are unable to sue vaccine manufacturers or the companies that administer the vaccines, under federal law. The United States government ruled that the blanket protection from lawsuits was necessary to keep the vaccine makers in business.
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