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Vaccine Injuries

Types, Causes, and Symptoms

Vaccines have revolutionized public health by preventing the spread of infectious
diseases and saving countless lives.

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Is SIRVA permanent?

Our Founder Paul Brazil explains what a shoulder injury related to vaccine administration entails, how common it is, and more. SIRVA is the most common injury in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

What Is A Vaccine Injury?

While vaccine injuries are rare, understanding their types, causes, and symptoms is crucial to ensure informed discussions about their occurrence and address any concerns. 

Although vaccinations' benefits are clear, there are still lingering concerns about the efficacy and risk factors associated with immunization. Research shows that only 69.7% of children under 2 in the US had received the Combined 7-series vaccine in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Despite the proven benefits, skepticism remains about natural well-being and potential injury.

In this article, we delve into the world of vaccine injuries, shedding light on the different types of injuries, exploring their potential causes, and highlighting the symptoms of a vaccine injury that may arise. A vaccine injury refers to any adverse reaction or harm that occurs following the administration of a vaccine. Although vaccines are rigorously tested for safety and undergo extensive clinical trials before being approved for use, they can, in rare instances, cause unintended side effects or complications. 

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Hear Cheryl's Vaccine Injury Story

Cheryl suffered SIRVA (shoulder injury related to vaccine administration) following a flu shot. Her vaccine injury claim was filed in the VICP by vaccine lawyer Max Muller where she obtained a large cash settlement for her pain and suffering, lost wages and out of pocket medical expenses.

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What are the types of Vaccine Injuries?

A vaccine injury refers to any adverse reaction or harm that occurs following the administration of a vaccine. Although vaccines are rigorously tested for safety and undergo extensive clinical trials before being approved for use, they can, in rare instances, cause unintended side effects or complications. 

Vaccine injuries can range from mild, temporary reactions like soreness at the injection site or low-grade fever, to more severe and uncommon outcomes such as allergic reactions, and shoulder injuries. It is important to note that while vaccine injuries can occur, the benefits of vaccination in preventing diseases far outweigh the risks for the vast majority of individuals.

Allergic Reactions

An allergic reaction to a vaccine can be mild or severe.

  • Localized Allergic Reaction: Localized allergic reactions are typically mild and occur at the site of vaccine administration. Symptoms may include redness, swelling, or itching at the injection site. These reactions are usually self-limiting and resolve within a few days without specific treatment.
  • Systemic Allergic Reaction (Anaphylaxis): Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur shortly after receiving a vaccine. It is a rare reaction but requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include difficulty breathing, wheezing, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, swelling of the face or throat, hives, or a widespread rash.
  • Serum Sickness: Serum sickness is a delayed allergic reaction that can occur several days to weeks after receiving a vaccine. It is characterized by fever, joint pain, rash, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue. Although rare, serum sickness is typically self-limited and resolves on its own without specific treatment.
  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis: Allergic contact dermatitis is a localized skin reaction due to an allergic response to substances in the vaccine or the vaccine packaging. Symptoms include redness, itching, and a rash at the contact site. It is important to differentiate this reaction from a normal injection site reaction. 
  • Allergic Asthma: Some individuals may develop allergic asthma due to an allergic reaction to a vaccine. This condition manifests as airway inflammation, wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. It is important to note that allergic asthma following vaccination is extremely rare.

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Autoimmune Disorders

While vaccines are generally safe and do not commonly cause autoimmune disorders, there have been rare instances of autoimmune reactions following vaccination.

  • Brachial Neuritis: Also known as Brachial Plexus Neuropathy or Parsonage-Turner syndrome, is a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the nerves of the Brachial Plexus, a network of nerves that controls the movement and sensation in the shoulder, arm, and hand. While Brachial Neuritis can occur spontaneously, there have been rare cases where it has been associated with vaccination.
  • Encephalitis: A rare autoimmune disorder characterized by inflammation of the brain. The symptoms of Encephalitis can vary depending on the severity and the specific area of the brain affected. Common signs and symptoms may include fever, headache, confusion, irritability, seizures, changes in behavior or personality, muscle weakness or paralysis, difficulty speaking or understanding speech, and impaired coordination or balance. Most cases of encephalitis following vaccination are self-limiting and resolve over time. 
  • Encephalopathy: Encephalopathy is a broad term to describe a dysfunction or abnormality of the brain. Vaccine-associated encephalopathy is an extremely rare adverse event reported following vaccination. A thorough medical evaluation is necessary to assess the potential causes and rule out other underlying conditions. Medical professionals employ a comprehensive approach to diagnosing encephalopathy, which may involve physical examination, neurological assessments, medical history review, and diagnostic tests such as brain imaging and laboratory analyses.
  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS): GBS occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the peripheral nerves, leading to muscle weakness and paralysis. While GBS can occur spontaneously, it has been associated with certain vaccines, such as influenza and swine flu. However, the risk of developing GBS after vaccination is very low, estimated to be less than one case per million doses administered.
  • Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP): This disorder is a low platelet count, leading to abnormal bleeding and bruising. The hallmark symptom of ITP is the development of purpura, which are small red or purple spots on the skin caused by bleeding under the skin. Other symptoms may include easy or excessive bruising, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, prolonged bleeding from minor cuts, and, in rare cases, internal bleeding.
  • Transverse Myelitis: Transverse myelitis is a rare clinical syndrome in which an immune-mediated process causes neural injury to the spinal cord. The pathogenesis of transverse myelitis is mostly autoimmune, triggered by various environmental factors, including vaccination Agmon-Levin, N., Kivity, S., Szyper-Kravitz, M., & Shoenfeld, Y. (2009). The symptoms of transverse myelitis can vary but often include back pain, weakness or paralysis in the legs or arms, sensory disturbances, bowel or bladder dysfunction, and coordination difficulties. The severity and extent of symptoms can vary from person to person.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): RA is a chronic autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints, causing pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Although the exact cause of RA is unknown, there have been rare reports of RA onset or exacerbation following vaccination. However, studies have not established a conclusive link between vaccines and the development of RA.
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): Commonly called Lupus, it is a chronic illness affecting multiple body organs and systems. While the exact cause of Lupus is not fully understood, it is believed to involve a complex interplay between genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors. Lupus is characterized by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissues and organs, leading to chronic inflammation. This can result in a wide range of symptoms that vary from person to person, including fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes (especially a characteristic butterfly-shaped rash on the face), photosensitivity, fever, hair loss, chest pain, kidney problems, neurological symptoms.

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Blood Conditions

  • Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP): ITP is an autoimmune disorder that affects the blood, specifically the platelets. Platelets are important for blood clotting and preventing excessive bleeding. In ITP, the immune system mistakenly recognizes platelets as foreign and attacks and destroys them, leading to a low platelet count (thrombocytopenia). This can result in abnormal bleeding and bruising. The impact of ITP on an individual can range from mild to severe. In some cases, individuals may have minimal symptoms and not require treatment. However, the low platelet count can lead to more significant bleeding complications in others. These can include heavy menstrual bleeding, bleeding into the digestive tract, or bleeding in the brain, although the latter is rare. In severe cases or during bleeding episodes, treatments such as intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), corticosteroids, or platelet transfusions may be necessary.

Bowel Problems

  • Intussusception:  Intussusception is a rare but serious condition that affects the bowel, specifically the small intestine or colon. It occurs when one segment of the intestine telescopes into another, causing a blockage and obstructing the normal flow of food, fluids, and stool. While intussusception can occur spontaneously, it has been temporally associated with certain vaccines, particularly the rotavirus vaccine. The symptoms of Intussusception can vary but commonly include severe abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody stools, and a swollen or tender abdomen. In infants, signs of distress may be observed, such as pulling the legs towards the abdomen and inconsolable crying. Prompt medical attention is crucial if Intussusception is suspected, as it is considered a medical emergency.

Brain Conditions

  • Vasovagal Syncope:  An example of a brain condition occasionally triggered by vaccines. A sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure causes a temporary loss of consciousness. Symptoms often precede the loss of consciousness, including lightheadedness, dizziness, pallor, sweating, and a slow heart rate. The loss of consciousness during a Vasovagal Syncope episode is typically brief, and individuals usually regain consciousness spontaneously. However, falling or fainting can pose a risk of injury, so it is important to ensure a safe environment during and after an episode!

Vasovagal Syncope following vaccination is an infrequent occurrence, and the overall risk is considered minimal compared to the risk of experiencing syncope from other causes or complications of vaccine-preventable diseases. In most cases, no specific treatment is required for Vasovagal Syncope, as the episodes are self-limiting and generally resolve without complications.

  • Encephalitis and Encephalopathy: As mentioned earlier in the Autoimmune Disorders section, these are further examples of brain conditions potentially caused by vaccines. Recent studies have shown that general attitudes to the potential risks of vaccine injuries like Encephalitis and Encephalopathy are underestimated following the misleading vaccine-autism controversy, according to Breggin, Peter R. ‘Moving Past the Vaccine/autism Controversy - to Examine Potential Vaccine Neurological Harms. The leading names on the paper conclude by stating that we need to examine actual neurological harms associated with vaccines, including building on existing research that has been ignored.

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Nerve Damage and Pain

  • Bell's palsy:  This is a condition characterized by the sudden onset of facial muscle weakness or paralysis, typically affecting one side of the face. While the exact cause of Bell's palsy is not fully understood, it is thought to involve inflammation and compression of the facial nerve, which controls the muscles of the face. While rare, there have been rare cases where Bell's palsy has been temporally associated with certain vaccines. Most individuals with Bell's palsy recover spontaneously within weeks to months, even without specific treatment. However, medications such as corticosteroids may be prescribed in some cases to help reduce inflammation and promote recovery. Protecting the affected eye from drying out, practicing facial exercises, and seeking support from physical or occupational therapists may also be beneficial.

  • Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP): CIDP happens when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath, the protective covering of the peripheral nerves. This attack leads to impaired nerve signal transmission. It can result in various symptoms, including muscle weakness, sensory disturbances (such as numbness or tingling), reflexes loss, and coordination and balance difficulties. The management of CIDP often involves treatment aimed at suppressing the immune response and reducing inflammation. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressive medications are commonly used to help control symptoms, improve nerve function, and slow down the progression of the disease. Physical therapy and rehabilitation may also improve muscle strength and function.

  • Optic Neuritis: The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting visual signals from the eye to the brain. This can become inflamed and create problems for individuals. The symptoms of Optic Neuritis typically include sudden vision loss or impairment in one eye, often accompanied by pain behind the eye that worsens with eye movement. Other symptoms may include blurry vision, decreased color perception, and decreased visual acuity. Optic Neuritis can affect visual function to varying degrees and may lead to temporary or, in rare cases, permanent vision loss.

  • Ulnar Neuropathy: Also known as Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, it is a condition that affects the ulnar nerve, which runs along the inner side of the arm and is responsible for sensation and motor function in the forearm and hand. The symptoms of Ulnar Neuropathy typically include numbness or tingling in the ring and little fingers, weakness in the hand, difficulty with fine motor tasks, and a tendency to drop objects. Pain may also be present in some cases, radiating along the forearm's inner side.

  • Brachial Neuritis, GBS and Transverse Myelitis are also considered to be nerve damage related diseases rarely originating from vaccine injuries. Studies in 2019 show that GBS should be considered an infrequent adverse effect of influenza vaccination, which should not negatively influence its acceptance, according to Fadrique, R. S., Arias, L. M., Molina-Guarneros, J. A., Bulnes, N. J., & Ortega, P. G. (2018). Guillain-Barré syndrome and influenza vaccines: Current evidence.

Shoulder Injuries

If a vaccine is injected too high or too deep into the shoulder, it can lead to inflammation, damage to the tendons, ligaments, or bursa, and subsequent pain and limited mobility. Factors such as incorrect needle placement, excessive force, or incorrect angle during injection can contribute to shoulder injuries.

  • Frozen Shoulder: Also known as Adhesive Capsulitis, Frozen Shoulder is when pain and stiffness in the shoulder result in a limited range of motion from an improperly administered vaccination. When the vaccine is placed too high, it will sometimes come into contact with the bursae (small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones) and cause inflammation.

  • Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA): This is a rare condition that can occur due to improper vaccine administration. SIRVA is characterized by shoulder pain and limited range of motion following vaccination. It is believed to be caused by the accidental injection of the vaccine into the subacromial bursa or the underlying tendons and muscles of the shoulder. The pain and inflammation in the affected shoulder can be severe and may persist for an extended period. Research shows that most conceded claims for SIRVA were in women and involved influenza vaccines, according to Hesse, E. M., Atanasoff, S., Hibbs, B. F., Adegoke, O. J., Ng, C., Marquez, P., Osborn, M., Su, J. R., Moro, P. L., Shimabukuro, T., & Nair, N. (2020). Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA): Petitioner claims to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, 2010–2016.

  • Rotator Cuff: vaccine injuries refer to damage or irritation of the rotator cuff tendons in the shoulder following vaccination. The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that stabilize and ease the movement of the shoulder joint. Vaccine-related rotator cuff injuries can result from various factors, such as improper administration technique or a reaction to the vaccine. Symptoms may include shoulder pain, weakness, limited range of motion, and difficulty with daily activities. 

  • Tendonitis: Tendonitis is a form of SIRVA  and may exhibit various symptoms. These can include experiencing pain, specifically at night when attempting to sleep, feeling discomfort while engaging in movement or physical activities, sensing tenderness and pain along the affected tendon and joint, and observing swelling and stiffness in the shoulder.

  • Brachial Neuritis, as mentioned above, is considered to be a shoulder injury too.

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What types of vaccines cause injuries?

The current list for the different types of vaccines that have been known to cause vaccine injuries according to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program are the following:

- Flu (Influenza) Vaccine (TIV, LAIV)

- Diptheria (DTaP, DTP, DT, Td, Tdap)

- Hemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

- Varicella (Chicken Pox) (VZV)

- Hepatitis A (HAV)

- Hepatitis B (HBV)

- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) (Gardasil and Cervarix)

- Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR, MR, M, R)

- Meningococcal (MCV4, MPSV4)

- Pertussis (Whooping Cough) (DTaP, DTP, Tdap, P, DTP-Hib)

- Pneumococcal Conjugate (PCV)

- Rotavirus vaccine (Rota Teq)

- Tetanus (Lockjaw) (DTaP, DTP, DT, Td, Tdap, TT)

What are the symptoms of vaccine injuries?

Vaccination injury symptoms can vary but commonly include pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site. Some individuals may experience fever, fatigue, or malaise after vaccination. Skin reactions like rashes or hives and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or vomiting can occur. Severe allergic reactions may lead to breathing difficulties or neurological symptoms like seizures or dizziness, although rare.

Seeking prompt medical attention after identifying vaccine injury symptoms is crucial. Healthcare professionals can accurately diagnose the cause of symptoms, provide effective treatment, and ensure proper reporting of adverse events. Early intervention may help manage symptoms effectively and contribute to ongoing vaccine safety monitoring. Medical records are essential when filing a claim for a vaccine injury, so the earlier they are dated, the more likely there will be a clear connection between the vaccine and the injury sustained.

What are common side effects of vaccines?

The most common side effects after vaccination are mild. The following list is taken from the US Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Pain, swelling, or redness where the shot was given
  • Mild fever
  • Chills
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Fainting 

Although symptoms and side effects may appear the same there is a slight difference. Symptoms are anything you could report as changing the way you feel and a side effect is a direct cause from a particular event. 

What are some serious side effects from vaccines?

Although serious side effects occur less frequently, they can tremendously affect an individual and change their path in life. The following is a list of less frequent but more serious side effects from vaccines:

Life‑threatening Allergic Reactions
Arm/Shoulder injuries
Brain Inflammation
Blood clots
Neurological Conditions

Being aware of potential vaccine injuries is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it empowers individuals to recognize and differentiate between normal vaccine side effects and more serious adverse reactions. This awareness allows for timely medical intervention and appropriate management if needed. Secondly, understanding potential vaccine injuries promotes informed decision-making regarding vaccination, allowing individuals to weigh the benefits against the risks. Furthermore, reporting any injuries, symptoms, or side effects contributes to a greater understanding of vaccine integrity. Overall, staying informed about potential vaccine injuries helps ensure the safety and well-being of individuals and the broader community.

What are the most common vaccine injuries?

The most common vaccine injuries reported are generally mild and temporary, such as injection site reactions (pain, redness, swelling) and mild systemic reactions like fever, fatigue, or muscle aches. These are considered normal responses to vaccination and typically resolve on their own. Serious vaccine injuries, though rare, can occur, including severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA), and fainting (syncope) with potential injury from falls.

Transverse Myelitis, Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP), and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are examples of rarer vaccine injuries. 

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What if I feel sick after getting vaccinated?

If you feel sick after vaccination, it is important to take care of yourself by getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers, as your healthcare provider recommends. Most individuals can continue their daily activities while experiencing mild symptoms.

However, if you experience severe or persistent symptoms that cause significant discomfort or concern, it is advisable to seek medical attention. While serious side effects are rare, it's important to rule out any potential complications or underlying conditions that may not be directly related to the vaccine. Consulting with a healthcare professional can provide proper evaluation, guidance, and reassurance.

It is also important to get legal advice to protect your rights in terms of potential loss of earnings, any pain and suffering experienced, or other possible claims.

Any person who has experienced a reaction would be wise to inform the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), as this is essential for monitoring the general effects vaccines have on the populace and is the first step to improving health and safety regulations for vaccines already approved.

How do I know if my child has a vaccine injury?

Recognizing a vaccine injury in a child can be challenging, as most adverse reactions are mild and temporary. However, if you notice severe or persistent symptoms, unusual or unexpected reactions, developmental regression, or new-onset neurological symptoms after vaccination, it is important to seek medical attention. Unusual swelling or prolonged pain at the injection site should also be evaluated. Vaccine injuries are rare, but consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance if you have concerns.

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What type of compensation is available for vaccine injuries?

In the United States, a federal program called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) compensates individuals who experience vaccine-related injuries or adverse reactions. This program was established to ensure that individuals suffering from vaccine injuries are fairly and quickly compensated without requiring lengthy legal proceedings.

Compensation for vaccine injuries can be hefty according to the specific conditions of each case. For example, up to $250,000 can be paid for pain, suffering, and emotional distress. It is well worth contacting a vaccine injury lawyer if you have been the victim of a vaccine injury!

Why is legal representation important for filing vaccine injury claims?

Legal representation is important for filing vaccine injury claims because it helps navigate the complex legal process, build a strong case with supporting evidence, protect your rights, and ensure fair compensation. Vaccine injury claims involve legal complexities that require specialized knowledge and expertise. Having an attorney who understands the process and can advocate on your behalf increases your chances of a successful outcome. They can also provide access to valuable resources and support services. Overall, legal representation ensures that your interests are safeguarded and maximizes your chances of obtaining the compensation you deserve.

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