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Liability attorney warns legal rights are limited for patients harmed by COVID vaccine

Posted at 3:02 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 15:02:16-05

MILWAUKEE, Wisc. — Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is already being widely distributed across the country for healthcare workers, but a Milwaukee attorney warns the general public should know there is very little recourse if they have a bad reaction to any COVID-19 vaccine.

Tens of thousands of people took part in several coronavirus vaccine trials. Some reported minor and temporary side effects such as headaches and fatigue and there were no signs of long-term health effects.

Given that the trials were completed less than a month ago, vaccine liability attorney Jerry Konkel believes people should be aware that their legal rights are limited if the vaccine somehow harms them.

“One thing I would say is to have a high level of suspicion,” Konkel said.

Konkel said the federal government has shielded coronavirus vaccine manufacturers from personal liability lawsuits. Instead, there’s a federal fund for those who can prove their injuries were caused by the vaccine less than one year after receiving it.

“They only pay non-covered medical expenses and lost wages as a general rule so it’s a big difference from the general vaccine compensation program which will pay for uncovered medical expenses, lost wages, future medical expenses, pain suffering, and disability,” Konkel said.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard is Wisconsin’s chief medical officer of communicable diseases. He’s trying to convince those who are skeptical of the vaccine that it is the quickest way to return to normalcy.

“The process that this vaccine was used to be developed was transparent and worthy of trust,” he said.

Dr. Westergaard said there are two ways to understand the safety of vaccines, clinical trials followed by post-use surveillance. Those who administer vaccines are required to report any issues patients to encounter.

“There haven’t been any long term negative consequences although it is early,” Dr. Westergaard said.

Another way the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to get data about vaccine side effects is through a smartphone application called ‘V-safe’. People who get the vaccine will be able to voluntarily report any symptoms they have in real-time.

This story was first reported by Ben Jordan at TMJ4 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering