Will the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program Be Busy in 2021 (and Beyond)?
The recent withdrawal of emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine got us thinking about the implications of rushing Covid-19 remedies—and more specifically, vaccines. “Vaccine development is a long, complex process, often lasting 10-15 years and involving a combination of public and private involvement.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said that by the beginning of 2021 the United States hopes 100 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine will be available.
Depending on when the coronavirus first appeared in humans, there will be a vaccine for it within 10-15 months as opposed to years. We all hope the heroic efforts of the public and private sectors working together to make that happen will result in a safe and effective vaccine. In the unfortunate event the vaccine does not prove to be safe, on some level, civil lawsuits would almost surely bankrupt companies involved in the manufacture of the vaccine(s). The U.S. has a system in place to attempt to keep that from happening, known as the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
The VICP is a no-fault alternative to lawsuits that was created in the 1980s. Any individual who received a “covered vaccine” and believes he or she was injured can file a petition with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. There is a review process that ultimately results in a decision by a court appointed special master as to whether the claimant will be compensated or not. Claimants who reject the decision may file a suit against the vaccine company and/or health care provider who administered the vaccine. It will be interesting to follow how the companies, insurance carriers and government respond to the risks associated with potential claims related to a Covid-19 vaccine.