According to the CDC, flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines can be co-administered, which means they can be given at the same time if you are eligible for both vaccines.
But the question remains, “Should you do so?”.
Getting both inoculations at the same time if you are due for both is an option for many consumers, and some people might prefer to get them both at the same appointment simply because it is more convenient.
Arguably, if a patient only gets one vaccine at a time, some may be more likely to skip getting the next vaccine altogether. As a result, the healthcare community has been keen to recommend the coadministration of the flu and COVID vaccines.
This is not a new issue. For years, parents have increasingly questioned the risks versus benefits of their child receiving multiple vaccines during a single visit to the pediatrician. By and large, the only benefit of administering more than one vaccine to a child in a single visit comes down to convenience, saving the parent or caregiver yet another trip to the physician’s office to get another shot.
A CDC study published this summer revealed that people who received a flu vaccine and an mRNA COVID-19 booster vaccine at the same time were slightly more likely (8% to 11%) to have reactions, including fatigue, headache, and muscle ache, than those who only got a COVID-19 mRNA booster vaccine. The study further reported that these reactions were mostly mild and dissipated quickly. According to the CDC website, “The findings of this study are consistent with safety data from clinical trials that did not find any safety concerns with giving both vaccines at the same time.”
But what happens in those rare instances when a vaccine leads to severe illness, disability, or even death? The coadministration of the COVID and flu vaccines then raises some legitimate questions about liability—and how to determine which vaccine is at fault.
For instance, patients may choose to get one shot in the right arm and the other vaccine in the left. Others may choose to have both in their less dominant arm so that they can avoid experiencing pain in the arm that does most of the work. However, computer systems at retail sites that administer vaccines are known to default to the left arm, erroneously indicating that all patients request they be vaccinated in their left arm, which simply is not always the case. One of the most frequent claims in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) are Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration Claims or SIRVA. Uncertainty of which went in which arm could complicate a claim.
Another problem with administering the flu and COVID vaccines together lies firmly in the question of whether it can be proven which one might have caused an injury or death. Without an ability to clearly identify the vaccine that caused the problem impacts which program a claimant must apply to and what compensation may be available.
An injury from the seasonal flu vaccination is heard in the NVICP. However, injuries resulting from COVID vaccinations are so far constrained to the Countermeasure Injury Compensation Program (CICP), which provides benefits for claims related to the COVID vaccine.
Federal vaccine injury programs
The CICP program was created in 2010, following the H1N1 flu epidemic and reactions to the vaccination approved for the same to provide benefits to those who experience a serious injury or death of a loved one from a covered countermeasure. As defined by the program, a countermeasure is a vaccination, medication, device, or other item recommended to diagnose, prevent, or treat a declared pandemic, epidemic, or security threat.
This is in contrast to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), a program where you would file a claim if you were injured by routinely administered vaccines, such as the influenza vaccine. This program was founded in the late 1980s after lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers and healthcare providers threatened to cause vaccine shortages and reduce U.S. vaccination rates; it offers a no-fault alternative to the traditional legal system for resolving vaccine injury petitions. The program is funded by an excise tax on each vial of a covered vaccine.
With the NVICP, anyone, regardless of their age, who received a covered vaccine and believes he or she was injured as a result, can file a petition. Parents, legal guardians, and legal representatives can file on behalf of children, disabled adults, and individuals who are deceased.
NVICP and CICP – differences at a glance
Vaccine injury can be severe. Individuals may be eligible for compensation from one of these programs based on the type of vaccine, circumstances of its administration, and the timing and quality of the injury. A full comparison of the programs is available online. Here are some key differentiators:
National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
- The NVICP covers most vaccines routinely given in the U.S. The full table is here.
- Covered injuries are those with effects lasting for more than six months after the vaccine was given or resulted in inpatient hospitalization and surgery, or death. If an injury or condition is not on the Vaccine Injury Table or it doesn’t meet table requirements, the individual must prove injury through evidence, such as expert witness testimony, medical records, or medical opinion.
- Eligible filers are:
- Those who received a covered vaccine and believe it caused injury
- The parent or legal guardian of a child or disabled adult who received a covered vaccine
- The legal representative of the estate of a deceased person who received a covered vaccine and whose injury or death you believe resulted from that vaccination
- The injured party seeking compensation must file a petition with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and submit a copy of the petition to the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Since this is a legal process, most people hire an attorney, who is paid by the Vaccine Fund, as opposed to the claimant, so long as the Petition has been filed “in Good Faith.”
Countermeasure Injury Compensation Program
- As noted above, this program covers alleged injury from specific countermeasures initiated during a pandemic, epidemic, or security threat.
- Consumers have one year from the date the countermeasure that is alleged to have caused injury, was administered or used to file a claim. The filing deadline may be extended if the Secretary of Health and Human Services issues a new Covered Countermeasure Injury table or amends the previously-published one.
- Eligible requesters are:
- The injured party who is administered or used a covered countermeasure
- A representative of an injured countermeasure recipient
- The administrator of the estate or a survivor of a deceased injured countermeasure recipient
- To file a claim, the individual must submit a Request Package to the CICP, which is reviewed by the program’s medical staff to determine eligibility for benefits. If the individual is determined to be eligible, additional documentation will be requested to determine the type and amount of compensation.
- This is an administrative process. As such, many will file a claim without an attorney and unlike the NVICP, the program does not compensate counsel, so attorneys are generally paid on an hourly rate basis by the claimant.
If you or a loved one may have been harmed by vaccination injury after receiving the influenza or COVID-19 vaccine, contact our office to discuss your potential for filing a claim. The medical injury attorneys at Britcher, Leone & Sergio can help you if it is a legal matter that will go to the NVICP, or if you need guidance about the CICP countermeasure program.