Are There Risks in a Coronavirus Vaccine?

bottle with vaccine

Background Information

Millions of Americans will soon offer to take a coronavirus vaccine during this global pandemic. An important question to cover is whether there are legal risks associated with taking one. Historically, when vaccine manufacturers were unwilling to face liability for any adverse health consequences arising from taking a vaccine, it was more difficult to manufacturer large-scale production. This occurred during the 1976 influenza outbreak under President Gerald Ford. In response, the U.S. government passed law to become the defendant in any lawsuit directed towards those distributing the vaccine, shielding vaccine manufacturers.[1]

Protections for Vaccine Distributors.

There are currently protections in place for vaccine distributors in the fight against COVID-19, such as tort immunity.[2] An exception to established protections is in cases and circumstances where “willful misconduct” resulted in harm to the recipient of the vaccine. The harm caused by this would have to result in “serious physical injury”, essentially “life-threatening or permanently [impairing] a bodily function, or death”.[3] The harm to the recipient cannot just be a temporary negative reaction causing them to miss a week of work.[4]

International Ramifications

Those who received a vaccine through a U.S. vaccine manufacturer outside the country can still advance a lawsuit in a foreign civil justice system. This would depend on where the vaccine was administered; the vaccine manufacturer could still face litigation.[5] A “multi-country liability shield” could be achieved through a mandate by an international body, like the World Health Organization.[6]

Opposing Viewpoints

Notably, in a survey involving health care workers who had been asked to volunteer for a smallpox vaccination, there were differences between those who volunteered and those who had not. Those that declined and felt that they would not be able to pursue compensation if they experienced a severe adverse reaction constituted 49%. Those that took the vaccine and thought their ability to sue was likewise very low was 23%.[7] In essence, people would like legal avenues to pursue if somehow, they become ill due directly to a vaccine. The ramifications of a coronavirus vaccine are yet to be seen.

[1] Pace, Nicholas M. and Lloyd Dixon, COVID-19 Vaccinations: Liability and Compensation Considerations Critical for a Successful Campaign. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2020. Pg. 3.

[2] Ibid, 3-4.

[3] Ibid, 4.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 5.

[6] Ibid, 6.

[7] Ibid, 9. is the website for the workers compensation attorneys firm of Livingston, DiMarzio LLP Our team of attorneys is made up of New Jersey Mesothelioma Lawyers, NJ Workers Comp Lawyers, Employment Lawyers and Certified New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Attorneys.