9 Investigates

Reactions and injuries to vaccines are rare, but here’s what you need to know

ORLANDO, Fla. — Reactions or injuries to vaccines are rare, but they do happen.

For weeks Channel 9 has tracked people standing in line and driving through COVID-19 vaccination sites across central Florida. During that time, we’ve also been researching and talking to experts about injuries that are rare but can happen when vaccines are administered incorrectly.

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“Typically, it’s administered too high in the shoulder,” attorney Renee Gentry told Channel 9 investigative reporter Daralene Jones.

Gentry is the director of vaccine litigation at George Washington Law School. She explained how the needle is injected into the shoulder capsule instead of the deltoid muscle, and within 48 hours, a patient can then develop a condition called SIRVA, or shoulder injury related to vaccine administration.

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“The difference with SIRVA is usually within 24 hours, it’s a striking difference in pain, you will know it. People have difficulty sleeping, many people wake up in the middle of the night with the initial pain, it is so severe,” Gentry said.

In 2010 the federal government set up the countermeasures injury compensation program to help victims cover serious injuries, for unreimbursed medical expenses, lost employment income and even death benefits.

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A countermeasure is a vaccine, medication, device or other item that is used to prevent, diagnose or treat a public health emergency or a security threat.

For example, the 2009 H1N1 vaccine used during the 2009-2010 flu season to prevent the H1N1 virus was a countermeasure. Countermeasures save lives.

Most people who receive a countermeasure have no serious problems, but like any medicine, they can cause side effects, most of which are rare and mild, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, which is an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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9 Investigates discovered that in 11 years as of this month, the program has received 551 claims requesting compensation. Of those, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services deemed 450 ineligible, 62 are still in the medical review process and only 29 claims have ever been paid out at a cost of $6 million dollars, or about $206,000 per victim.

Michael Milmoe represented the Secretary of Health and Human Services in these exact vaccine kinds of claims.

“The entire program is run administratively through HHS, so they control the rules, they can make whatever rules and put into place any standards they want and that’s the reason I think the awards are so few and so small,” Milmoe said.

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That means there is no court process and HHS doctors and administrators decide if your case is valid. There is one thing you can do to avoid the bureaucracy when you get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“You should make sure they’re on the same level as you, if they’re standing you should be standing if you’re sitting, they should be sitting. Try to make it as easy as possible for them to get it in the right spot,” Gentry said.

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