Unexpected injury risk from vaccines

Many people don't realize that they can be seriously injured when a vaccine is given the wrong way. Those injuries can be long-lasting and even require surgery. Local artist Leslie Moon knows first-hand.

“So thankful it’s my left arm, because I’m right-handed and all of my primary art is done with my right hand.”

During a routine trip to the local grocery in January, Leslie decided to stop by the pharmacy and get her flu shot. “I just pulled down my shirt, a little bit off the shoulder…and I remember he was standing so it was very rushed.” She says she was left with unbearable pain in her left arm.

Leslie tried massage, then a chiropractic clinic to reduce the pain. It wasn’t until she visited a new primary care doctor that she learned it was likely a vaccine injury. An X-ray and MRI confirmed “shoulder bursitis.”

Vaccine injuries are more common that many people know. So much so that the government even has a special program that pays out millions of dollars each year to compensate victims.

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“Shoulder injury related to vaccine administration” – known as SIRVA – is when any kind of vaccine is improperly injected into the shoulder joint or bursa. For Moon, cortisone injections have helped, but the pain is still there. She expects she’ll eventually need surgery.

Moon’s attorney, Kelly Burdette, says it’s important that people know help is out there. The federal government has established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which pays out money to someone who’s been injured by a vaccine that has been included on an established list.

“The pain and suffering that I have over and over heard about as the result of this is really sad,” Burdette said.

According to the CDC, the number of SIRVA cases being reported for compensation is on the rise:
From 2011 to 2014 the federal government paid nearly $1 million for 59 SIRVA cases.

In 2015: $12.5 million for 98 cases

In 2016: $29 million for more than 200 cases

In 2017: Nearly $20 million for 163 cases

Although the government has been compensating for SIRVA, it wasn’t officially added to the vaccine injury table until last March.

“I was glad, because I knew finally there would be recognition this was a problem,” Burdette said.

Moon said she just wants her medical bills covered. She also wants to make it clear that she’s not anti-vaccine. She just wants the public the be aware that vaccine injuries can happen, something she never thought about until it happened to her.

“Don’t expose your shoulder, make sure the person is at equal level with you sitting, just those little tips to know how a shot should be administered,” Moon said.

You can avoid SIRVA by making sure the person administering the shot is well-trained. Don't pull your shirt down but instead pull your sleeve or shirt up to expose your shoulder. If the pain goes beyond a few days, contact your doctor.

You can find more information on the vaccine compensation program here.