A prominent vaccine injury law firm says it can’t help people injured by COVID vaccines because COVID vaccines are not covered under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, forcing many to raise funds for their injuries online.
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 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.
“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.