In the last 30 years, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has paid roughly $4 billion to over 16,000 people who suffered side effects of vaccines.
Between 2013 and 2017 alone, the VICP gave out an average payment of $430,000 per person, or around $229 million per year.
The payouts are funded by a $0.75 tax on the sale of childhood vaccines. From 2006 to 2014, approximately 2.5 billion doses of vaccines were administered in the United States.
One of the most common serious problems is a Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Injury (SIRVA), in which the vaccine needle damages delicate tissues in the shoulder and causes chronic pain.
In rare cases, severe neurological reactions and autoimmune reactions have been linked to vaccines, but the rarity makes it hard to determine if they were caused by the vaccine or a coincidence.
Even so, the VICP has a no-fault rule, which means the agency does not seek proof of causation and claims such as these are covered.
Flu vaccines can also cause the immune system to attack the nervous system in a disease called Guillain-Barré Syndrome, resulting in temporary or permanent weakness and paralysis.
Autism is not on the list of diseases that the VICP covers. The problem began in 2010, after more than 5,000 claims involving autism were filed. The result was a legal review known as the Omnibus Autism Proceeding, which found no link between vaccines and autism.
The trade-off is that people who are injured by vaccines can’t file personal injury lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies who manufacture vaccines, unlike every type of drug other than vaccines.