Vaccines are a medical product and as such, just like any other medical product, can cause injuries in certain people. For those who have sustained a vaccine-related injury, understanding the available compensation programs is crucial. Two such programs, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) and the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP), have been established to provide compensation to those who have experienced adverse reactions from vaccinations.
In this article we will discuss the VICP and CICP and shed light on the fundamental differences in terms of process, compensation, and overall impact on vaccine injured claimants. Understanding these differences in these programs is important so victims of vaccine injuries have a better chance of obtaining compensation for their losses.
What Constitutes a Vaccine-Related Injury
Adverse reactions from vaccinations can and do occur. The severity of these types of injuries varies and can range from a mild self-resolving injury to a catastrophic injury and even death.
Vaccine-related injuries can be any adverse event that a person suffers after receiving a vaccine. For instance, a mild self-resolving injury might be a sore arm that goes away after a few days or swelling that resolves shortly after the vaccine was administrated. Some shoulder injuries, however, can be severe and can significantly disrupt a person’s life causing them to suffer unimaginable amounts of pain that sometimes result in surgery. Our article What Is Shoulder Injury Related To Vaccine Administration (“SIRVA”) has more information on this common type of vaccine injury.
Examples of other serious vaccine reactions and injuries include skin infections, autoimmune conditions, brain swelling, severe allergic reactions, heart inflammation, central nervous system disorders, demyelinating conditions, and even death.
A Brief History of VICP
Launched in 1988 as part of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, the VICP was established to ensure the availability of vaccines, stabilize vaccine costs, and establish a fair and impartial forum to provide awards for individuals injured by vaccines. While this was the initial design and intent of the VICP, this is not the reality of how this program works today. The VICP covers a broad range of vaccines and provides compensation for individuals who have sustained adverse reactions to these vaccines. The list of vaccines covered in the VICP can be found here.
In the U.S., the VICP is funded by a tax on each vaccine dose, with awards granted, in most cases, if the petitioner can prove how the vaccine caused the claimed injury.
The Rise of CICP
In 2010, the CICP was created by Congress as a response to the growing threat of bioterrorism. This program was established under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act of 2005 and is specifically designed to handle compensation claims related to countermeasures, such as vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, employed during a declared public health emergency. Unlike the VICP, the CICP is funded entirely by federal appropriations, with a limited budget. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CICP had processed about 1,500 claims related to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009-2010. Only 29 of those claims were compensated. The COVID-19 pandemic has generated 11,897 claims in the CICP with only 4 cases currently compensated and over 10,000 claims still in review.
VICP vs. CICP
While both VICP and CICP are designed to provide compensation for vaccine injuries, their processes, coverage, and compensations differ significantly.
Examining the Disparity in Compensation
VICP covers a wide range of vaccines but the CICP is only applicable to vaccines (and other therapeutics, prophylactic, etc.) used during declared public health emergencies; current examples include vaccines for COVID-19. Therefore, a person who experiences an adverse reaction from a routine vaccine might seek compensation from VICP, while someone negatively affected by an emergency vaccine might find recourse through CICP.
Evaluating the Claim Process
In the VICP, a petition filed with the United States Court of Federal Claims is what begins the case. The Respondent in all VICP cases is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In the CICP, a request for benefits form is filed with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). There is no other party, as the CICP is an administrative program and not a judicial proceeding.
In VICP, the Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys who represent HHS will review the petition and supporting documentation. The file is passed on to medical personnel at HHS for a determination as to whether HHS will work to settle the case or if they will defend the case. If HHS chooses to defend the case, the case will move on to the expert stage and if the parties still are not able to settle the case, it will move on to an entitlement hearing in front of the presiding special master. The standard of proof in a VICP case is a preponderance of the evidence. If a party decides they are not happy with the decision of the special master, they could file an appeal. There are several levels of judicial appeals to take in a VICP case. This is a very shortened version of what happens in a VICP case, but the point is that the VICP claims are litigated in judicial forums and have several levels of appeals available to petitioners.
In contrast, when filing in the CICP, the request for benefits claim form and other supporting documentation is submitted to HRSA and a decision is rendered by this agency. An aggrieved claimant may be able to request reconsideration but there is no right to a hearing on the merits or to any sort of judicial determination or appeal. There is also a very heightened standard of proof that the claimant must meet (with scientific literature, acceptance by government health agencies, etc.) that the vaccine or other countermeasure was the direct cause of the injury or death.
Difference In Available Compensation
When it comes to compensation, the VICP allows for reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, future care, and attorneys’ fees and costs. There is no cap on the amount of an award for lost wages, future care or attorneys’ fees and costs, however, there is a $250,000 cap on an award for pain and suffering. On the other hand, the CICP limits reimbursement to out-of-pocket medical expenses related to an injury and up to $50,000 per year in lost wages. There is no award for an individual’s pain and suffering in the CICP.
Understanding Your Rights: Navigating VICP and CICP Claims
Given the stark difference in the claim process and available compensation, it is imperative for victims of vaccine-related injuries to thoroughly understand their options and the different processes.
Although both VICP and CICP were created to compensate victims of vaccine injury there are many procedural hurdles for claimants in both programs. Consulting with an attorney experienced in handling these types of claims is strongly recommended. Moreover, being vigilant and aware of the vaccine you are taking, and its potential adverse effects, can also help you to understand if you are suffering from any of these adverse events.
Siri & Glimstad LLP is a law firm focused on helping victims of vaccine injury. We fight for you to recover just compensation for your loss. If you or someone you know has suffered from an adverse reaction caused by a vaccine, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Together we will take every step necessary to fight for the justice you deserve.