The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, as amended, created a unique mechanism for compensating persons injured by certain pharmaceutical products. The Act established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (the "VICP" or the "Program") (42 U.S.C. §§ 300aa-10 et seq.) as an alternative to traditional products liability and medical malpractice litigation for persons injured by their receipt of one or more standard childhood vaccines.
The VICP is designed to encourage childhood vaccination by providing a streamlined system for compensation in rare instances where an injury results from vaccination. Over the past 21 years, the VICP has succeeded in providing a less adversarial, less expensive, and less time-consuming system of recovery than the traditional tort system that governs medical malpractice, personal injury, and product liability cases. More than 2,319 people have been paid in excess of $1.8 billion (combined) since the Program’s 1988 inception.
Individuals who believe they have been injured by a covered vaccine can file a claim against the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims seeking compensation from the Vaccine Trust Fund. Civil Division, Torts Branch attorneys in the Office of Vaccine Litigation defend HHS against claims filed under the VICP, and ensure that fair compensation is awarded in every case meeting the eligibility criteria.
Eligible claimants can recover compensation for vaccine injury-related medical and rehabilitative expenses, for pain and suffering, and lost earnings. By protecting the Vaccine Trust Fund against claims by those who have not suffered a vaccine-related injury, the Office of Vaccine Litigation helps to preserve the Fund for future eligible claimants. Claimants may also recover "reasonable" attorney's fees and costs, and the Program also permits attorney fee awards to be made when a claim is otherwise denied, as long as it had a reasonable basis in fact and was pursued in good faith.
Vaccines covered under the Program include those that protect against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), polio, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, varicella (chickenpox), Hemophilus influenzae type b, rotavirus, pneumococcal conjugate, trivalent influenza (seasonal flu), meningococcal conjugate and human papillomavirus.
A significant, positive result of the Program is that costly litigation against drug manufacturers and health care professionals who administer vaccines has virtually ceased. Although an individual who is dissatisfied with the Court’s final judgment can reject it and file a lawsuit in State or Federal court, very few lawsuits have been filed since the Program began. The supply of vaccines in the U.S. has stabilized, and the development of new vaccines has markedly increased.
For more information about the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, please visit the HHS Health Services Administration's VICP website.