Each year millions of Americans get vaccinated against the flu. Yet even someone who has been vaccinated still can get sick. Although vaccines can reduce the severity of an illness, there’s always a chance that the vaccine simply won’t work, and hospitalization and even death can be the result. Someone who suffers this kind of unexpected illness may wonder if the vaccine manufacturer or healthcare provider could be legally liable for the damages resulting from an ineffective vaccine. The answer to this question may hinge on whether an intervening act of negligence rendered the vaccine ineffective.
Properly stored and administered vaccines are not a guarantee
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu vaccine’s effectiveness varies from year to year and from patient to patient. There are a host of reasons why this is true. One significant factor is the way each batch of vaccine is designed. Ideally, a vaccine is based on the form of flu that becomes prevalent in a given year. But anticipating which form of flu will become most prevalent involves a degree of guesswork that sometimes misses the mark. The effectiveness of a vaccine also varies by flu type: influenza A(H1N1) and influenza B viruses seem to be controlled more easily than influenza A(H3N2) viruses.
The inherent limited effectiveness of vaccines means that they are not a guarantee against illness. At best they improve the patient’s chances of staying healthy, and when applied to a significant number of people they protect the general population against an epidemic. This has an important implication for someone thinking about filing a lawsuit after getting sick. If each person in the chain of a vaccine’s life—from the manufacturer to the healthcare provider who administers the vaccine to patients—has acted with due care, it may be difficult to make a legal case.
Negligence in manufacture or handling
Something more than just a failed vaccine must be present for a personal injury lawsuit to go forward. Most personal injury suits claim that the defendant acted negligently. Negligence involves a failure to satisfy a duty of care toward the plaintiff. In a vaccine context, what might this involve? Here are some hypotheticals.
- A vaccine manufacturer uses an incorrect formulation that renders the vaccine completely ineffective and fails to discover the problem in its quality control processes.
- A healthcare provider fails to properly store the vaccine (for example, by storing it at too high of a temperature), destroying its effectiveness before it is administered.
- A healthcare provider administers an expired vaccine.
Another challenge for potential plaintiffs is the need to show causation between the defendant’s negligence and the plaintiff’s injury. Except in rare cases of severe reactions, like Guillain-Barré syndrome, a vaccine doesn’t cause disease. Overcoming issues like this requires the expertise of an experienced personal injury attorney.
The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. Our attorneys are available to answer your personal injury questions. For a free consultation reach out to us today at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.