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Guillain-Barre Syndrome and the Flu Shot

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Recently, the Food and Drug Administration amended the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine warning sheet to include Guillain-Barré Syndrome (“GBS”) as a potential side effect. Vaccines and GBS have been linked for years, and as more and more people are administered vaccines, it is worth taking the time to learn about vaccine injuries and GBS, its causes, symptoms, and the implication of its link to a Covid vaccine. To best understand what this means now and for the future, it is best to start with some background on vaccine injuries.


What is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

You may have noticed that GBS, the recent addition to the warning sheet of the J&J covid-19 vaccine, is present on the injury table for the yearly influenza vaccine. Truthfully, experts still know very little about GBS. It’s a rare disorder that causes the immune system to attack the body’s nerve cells and usually develops in 3,000-6,000 Americans per year. While the focus of this article is on vaccine based injuries, the full scope of causes of GBS is still somewhat of a mystery. Nearly two-thirds of those diagnosed with the condition reported having an infection in the six weeks prior, and as a result respiratory and gastrointestinal infections are also considered causes or risk factors. GBS has been linked to vaccines since the 1976 swine flu vaccine. In that instance, the CDC data reported the uptick in GBS at about one case per 100,000 vaccinations. As mentioned earlier, GBS is also linked to the yearly flu vaccine at a rate of approximately 1-2 cases per million vaccinations. A similar rate, 1.6 per million vaccinations to be exact, was also demonstrated for the 2009 H1N1 vaccine. Because of these incredibly small risk percentages, researchers who demonstrated a link to the H1N1 vaccine noted that those seeking vaccination “should be assured that the benefits of inactivated pandemic vaccines greatly outweigh the risks”. It is important to note that to date neither the Pfizer nor Moderna Vaccine have been linked to GBS, only the J&J vaccine contains this warning.

           Typically, GBS symptoms begin with a tingling in the lower extremities which will eventually spread to the rest of your body. As the illness progresses, it can lead to muscle weakness and even paralysis. As this is clearly very serious, albeit rare, understanding the disease and its link to vaccines is important. If related to a vaccine injury, the symptoms will typically develop between 3 and 42 days following the administration of the vaccine. Treatment for GBS cases typically consists of plasmapheresis or intravenous immunoglobulin and have been shown to generally produce favorable outcomes for those affected.

If you begin to experience these symptoms after receiving a vaccine, you should consult a doctor immediately as the earlier treatment begins, the more likely a successful and full recovery becomes. 


Vaccine Injuries

The vast majority of individuals who receive a vaccine experience no serious complications. However, on occasion a person may have a more serious reaction or injury caused by a vaccine. While this is no different than any other medication, vaccines are an invaluable part of modern society – keeping deadly infectious diseases at bay from the masses. The traditional tort legal system in the United States would allow an individual who was injured by a vaccine to bring a lawsuit against the health care provider administering the vaccine or even the vaccine manufacturer. Because these lawsuits began to build up, thus discouraging the administration and manufacturing of vaccines, vaccine shortages and vaccine administration rates were threatened. In 1986, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act and National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was passed into law as a solution to this problem. These programs were created with the goals of ensuring continued production of vaccines and establishing an efficient method of compensation for those who have been injured as an attempt to maintain herd immunity and encourage vaccination.

The NVICP is different from the traditional legal system in a few different ways. First, petitioners, or those who are seeking compensation for injuries, must submit a petition showing they meet the base requirements, have received a covered vaccine, and have suffered an injury caused by that vaccine. The petitioner’s case is then litigated against the Department of Health and Human Services who are represented by the Department of Justice. Also unlike a traditional tort claim, these cases are litigated in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. This court has limited jurisdiction over specific types of cases, and appeals go to the same Federal Circuit that hears patent appeals. Additionally, the NVICP includes something known as the vaccine injury table. The injury table consists of a list of injuries for which causation by the specified vaccine is presumed, making the petitioner's case significantly stronger. For example, some of the injuries on the table for the yearly influenza vaccination include anaphylaxis, shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (“SIRVA”), GBS, and in rare cases, death.

The Covid-19 vaccine is currently not covered by the NVICP. It is covered by the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program. The CICP is relatively similar to the VICP, but is specific for vaccine, medication, and device related injuries that were used to treat a pandemic or national emergency. As Covid-19 was declared a national emergency in March 2020, the increased risk of these vaccine injuries were determined to be compensable via the CICP.


Vaccine INjury Lawyer

The goal of this article is to educate and inform people about vaccine injuries, GBS, and the process of seeking compensation for these injuries. Vaccines of course greatly benefit the population, but some individuals unfortunately experience negative side effects like GBS. These injured individuals deserve just compensation for their injuries, and there’s no better place to represent you through that process than My Vaccine Lawyer. Muller Brazil, or My Vaccine Lawyer, is a full service law firm specializing in vaccine based injuries. Filing a vaccine injury petition is a long and complicated process, and the attorneys at My Vaccine Lawyer have represented thousands of people through it and have won over $50+ million dollars in settlements and verdicts since 2019. If you believe you may have experienced a vaccine related injury, do not hesitate to contact us today!