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What Is the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program?

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on September 22, 2021

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, or VICP, provides an alternative to the tort system to provide financial compensation for possible injuries or death from certain vaccinations.

The program was created as the result of a federal law known as the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. The law helps protect both the makers of vaccines and the health care workers that administer them from liability in the rare case of vaccine-related injury or death. The purpose of the system is not to find fault, but to give appropriate financial compensation for injury from vaccines.

Does VICP Cover COVID Vaccines?

No. But a similar program called under the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program, or CICP, covers COVID vaccines, including those by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Like VICP, CICP offers compensation to those deemed injured by the vaccine or to their family members. It has somewhat different requirements, though.

For example, VICP covers all your attorneys’ fees when you make a claim, while CICP does not. You can compare the two programs on the Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) web page.

In addition, CICP covers medical interventions other than just vaccines, which it groups together under the general heading of “countermeasures.”

Federal law defines covered countermeasures as “qualified pandemic or epidemic products,” “security countermeasures,” or “drugs, biological products, or devices authorized for investigational or emergency use.”

Who Can File a Claim Under VICP or CICP?

You can file under either one for compensation if:

  • You believe a covered vaccine or countermeasure has injured you in some way.
  • You’re the legal guardian of a child or disabled adult you believed was injured by a vaccine or countermeasure.
  • You represent the estate of a deceased person who you believe was injured by a vaccine or countermeasure.
  • You’re a survivor of someone who you believe died from a vaccine or countermeasure.

What Are the Other Main Requirements to File a Claim Under VICP or CICP?

For VICP, the injury needs to meet one of these conditions:

  • It lasted more than 6 months after the vaccination.
  • It required hospital inpatient care.
  • It required surgery.
  • It caused death.

The standard for CICP is simpler. You can file for CICP benefits if you believe the injury has caused “serious injury or death.”

How Long Can You Wait to File a VICP or CICP claim?

For VICP, you must file your claim no more than 3 years after you start to notice either first symptoms or significant symptoms. If you claim the vaccine caused a death, you must file within 2 years of the death and within 4 years of the first symptoms or significant symptoms.

For CICP, you must file within 1 year of receiving a covered countermeasure, like the COVID vaccine.

Does VICP or CICP Bar You from Other Legal Action?

Not necessarily. For VICP, you must first exhaust your options under the United States Court of Federal Claims. After that, if you reject the finding of the court, or if the court doesn’t issue a decision within the prescribed time, you are free to pursue other legal remedies. You may also pursue claims for $1,000 or less against a vaccine maker or an administrator without first filing a petition in the VICP.

In the case of CICP, it’s harder. You must accept the CICP remedy from its administrative court unless you can show "willful misconduct" on the part of a maker, tester, distributor, or provider of the vaccine.

In addition, the CDC has made clear that CICP will not protect doctors and health care workers that prescribe vaccine or vaccine booster shots “off label” -- that is, outside of the prescribed FDA recommendations.

How Can I Check Whether My Vaccine Is Covered or Make a Claim?

Visit the HRSA vaccine injury web page to find out whether your vaccination is covered under VICP.

Visit the HRSA Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program web page to find out more about what is covered under CICP.

Visit the HRSA petition information web page for information and links to file a petition for CICP or VICP.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs for Healthcare Professionals.”

Health Resources and Services Administration: “Frequently Asked Questions About the VICP,” “Vaccine Injury Table,” “National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: Who Can File a Petition,” “Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program,” “Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program: Frequently Asked Questions,” “CICP: Filing for Benefits,” “How To File a Petition,” “Comparison of Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP) to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).”

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