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Altom Maglio says his law firm, Maglio Christopher & Toale, has litigated more vaccine-related injury claims in the past five years than any other law firm in the U.S.
But the 22-lawyer firm has a disappointing message for would-be clients who have suffered a serious injury from a COVID vaccine.
“Our law firm has concluded that there is nothing our attorneys can do to significantly assist you,” the firm states on its website.
That’s because the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) — also known as “vaccine court” — does not currently handle COVID vaccine injury claims, though the law firm says it is leading a national effort to get COVID vaccines covered under the NVICP.
“If and when COVID vaccine injuries are covered, we can begin the process of reviewing your claim to determine if you’re eligible for the VICP,” the firm states.
According to an op-ed by Jenna Greene in Reuters, it’s not that Maglio’s firm doesn’t want to help. Representing people who’ve had serious adverse reactions to vaccines for tetanus, measles, hepatitis, influenza and a dozen other vaccines is its “bread and butter.”
But the current system for handling COVID-related claims is different than other vaccines — and not in a positive way. If you’ve suffered an injury related to the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines, you’re out of luck.
There are only two programs in the U.S. that help people with vaccine reactions, but only one of them accepts claims related to COVID vaccines — the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP) — and it almost never awards money, Maglio’s website states.
Renée Gentry, director of the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic at the George Washington University Law School, said COVID vaccine claimants have two rights: “You have the right to file,” she said. “And you have the right to lose.”
“We didn’t know how good we had it,” Maglio said. The vaccine court “is not without problems, but it does work, and people do get compensation.” But that’s not where COVID vaccine claims are being adjudicated.
The NVICP is a special, no-fault tribunal housed within the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that handles injury claims for 16 common vaccines. To date, it has awarded more than $4 billion to thousands of people for vaccine injuries.
Payouts, including attorneys’ fees, are funded by a 75-cent tax per vaccine and there’s a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering. The proceedings are often turned into drawn out, contentious expert battles and the backlog of cases is substantial, Reuters reported.
The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which established the NVICP, and U.S. Supreme Court Decision Russell Bruesewitz et al v. Wyeth et al guarantee that vaccine manufacturers, doctors and other vaccine administrators almost always have no legal accountability or financial liability in civil court when a government recommended or mandated vaccine(s) causes permanent injury or death.
The CICP, run by the Department of Health and Human Services, is even worse than the NVICP. Only about 8% of the people who applied to the CICP with vaccine injuries in the past have ever received payouts and there are no protections from the U.S. legal system. The statute of limitations for the CICP is one year from the time of injury. A key difference between the CICP and NVICP is the NVICP pays attorney fees; the CICP does not.
“There is no transparency, no court, no judge and no right to appeal,” Gentry said. “Decisions about compensation are made in a black hole by a nameless administrator.”
The agency’s website outlines the parameters of the program, which is authorized by the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (or PREP) Act. The PREP Act went into effect Feb. 4 and declared COVID-19 to be a public health emergency. A PREP Act declaration is specifically for the purpose of providing immunity from liability, which is why people who are injured by COVID vaccines can’t seek redress in the NVICP.
The program provides compensation for medical expenses, lost employment income and survivor death benefits as “the payer of last resort,” covering only what remains unpaid or unpayable by other third parties such as health insurance.
Historically, almost no one receives compensation. Since the program’s inception in 2010, only 29 claims have been paid, with an average payout of around $200,000. The other 452 claims (91.4%) were denied. Ten claims won approval but were deemed ineligible for compensation.
As of June 1, the program reported 869 pending cases but offered no further information.
Greene noted, at a time when the government is urgently trying to convince 70% of the eligible population to get vaccinated before the Delta variant takes hold, it seems unhelpful to deny due process — no judge, no judicial appeal and no transparency to those who react badly to vaccines.
People injured by COVID vaccines turn to GoFundMe
According to research compiled by a group in Mesa County, Colorado, as of June 25 there were 180 GoFundMe accounts seeking help for people who had suffered injuries after receiving a COVID vaccine and were left with large medical bills and other expenses.
Kelli, a young woman who was pursuing a master’s degree in nursing, has been suffering from a severe case of Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) since receiving her second dose of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine. A friend turned to GoFundMe to raise money for her medical bills, equipment and care.
According to Mayo Clinic, GBS is a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its nerves. Initial symptoms include weakness and tingling in the extremities which can quickly spread, eventually paralyzing the whole body.
Kelli has not responded well to treatments and her condition has continued to worsen. She can only move her hands, neck and shrug her shoulders. She is unable to grip or hold things and is unable to eat by mouth. Once healthy with no previous medical conditions, Kelly now relies on a feeding tube to eat and a ventilator to breathe.
On April 23, Virgil Brimley received his second Pfizer dose and “fell face down 10 to 12 hours later” after suffering from a seizure. He was hospitalized and placed in the ICU. His wife started a GoFundMe to raise money for their living expenses and medical bills.
Rachael Cecere, 33, was paralyzed after suffering from a rare central nervous system reaction to her first dose of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine.
On April 14, Cecere woke up with full-body paralysis at 1:30 a.m. She had to call her 3-year-old daughter for help. She was transferred to several hospitals and eventually ended up at Cleveland Clinic.
According to her GoFundMe, Cleveland Clinic confirmed Cecere had suffered a distress reaction from the vaccine that caused her nervous system to trigger paralysis. While in a rehab facility, Cecere regained feeling in her arms but has no feelings in her legs.
“It’s hard to believe she went from being fit and active one day to not being able to walk now,” Cecere’s brother and cousin wrote.
“One of the real issues that is not being discussed enough is the degree of what is happening in these cases involving adverse vaccine responses,” said Dr. Routhier, a physician and former executive within the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.
“We typically think of vaccine reactions as being things like rashes, fevers or other symptoms that eventually recede. What we are seeing now are what can be more properly described as being vaccine injuries,” Routhier said.
“People are being physically harmed by vaccines and that is to some degree atypical.” Dr. Routhier said workplace vaccine requirements may be contributing to the need for GoFundMe requests.
“If someone is required to take a vaccine in order to return to work, and then is injured by the vaccine making them unable to work, this is not the kind of injury recognized under workman’s compensation insurance. That means people have a debilitating injury that is work related but not recognized as being such. They then might have to turn to private charity to replace some of their lost income.”
On June 2, The Defender reported a 38-year-old woman, Kendra Lippy, suffered severe blood clots and multiple organ failure from J&J’s COVID vaccine and was left with more than $1 million in medical bills.
“I’m always going to have this disability … that’s going to limit what I can eat and limit … some activities that I can’t do anymore,” Lippy said. “Right now, I know it’s hindering me being able to go back to work, which is what I want to do. I’m not a stay-at-home person. I’m not somebody that’s gonna sit still, it’s just not me. I have to do something.”
Lippy, wants to see a federal compensation system that is fair to her and others who were harmed by COVID vaccines. Because the government shielded vaccine makers from liability, she can’t sue J&J. Lippy, like many others, also does not have a legitimate legal route to sue the government except for the CICP.
The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) showed a total of 387,087 reports of adverse events from all age groups following COVID vaccines, including 6,113 deaths and 31,240 serious injuries between Dec. 14, 2020 and June 18, 2021.