Vaccine Injuries: The Federal Compensation Program

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) gives a legal remedy to people injured by childhood vaccines.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that compensates people who have been injured by certain childhood vaccines. Eligible individuals (or their parents or legal guardians) can avoid litigation in the court system, and instead go through this more streamlined process, where claims are paid from the Vaccine Recovery Fund.

Read on for an explanation of the purpose of the Vaccine Injury Program, how the program works, who is eligible to make a VICP claim, and how claims should be made.

Purpose of Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

In the 1980s, expensive lawsuits over injuries caused by childhood vaccines acted as a deterrent that kept many companies from working to develop new vaccines, even when those vaccines could provide a clear societal benefit. In addition, people and families who had been injured by childhood vaccines spent large amounts of money and time seeking compensation through complex court cases.

In response, Congress established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) in order to:

  • ensure an adequate supply of vaccines
  • stabilize vaccine costs, and
  • provide an accessible and efficient forum for people who are injured by certain vaccines.

The VICP offers a streamlined approach to compensate children and their families in the very rare instance that a vaccine causes injury. It is a no-fault system, paid for by a small tax on every vaccine.

The VICP went into effect on October 1, 1988. Since that time, the number of lawsuits involving vaccines has decreased markedly, companies continue to manufacture vaccines, and new vaccines are being developed.

How the Program Works

To obtain compensation from the VICP, individuals file a claim in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. A specially trained lawyer (called a "special master") hears the case. If the claim falls within the VICP guidelines, the special master orders payment from the Vaccine Trust Fund.

Claim Eligibility

Individuals who believe they have been injured by a "covered vaccine" may be eligible to file a claim for reimbursement. Here are the details of eligibility:

Vaccines Included in the Program

The injury must have been caused by one of the following vaccines (or any combination of these vaccines):

  • diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTP, DTaP, Tdap, DT, TT or Td)
  • haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • hepatitis A and B
  • human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • influenza (TIV, LAIV)
  • measles, mumps, rubella (MMR, MR, M or R)
  • meningococcal disease (MCV4, MPSV4)
  • polio (OPV or IPV)
  • pneumococcal conjugate (PCV)
  • rotavirus (RV), or
  • varicella (chicken pox) (VZV).

As new vaccines become available, they may be added to the program. For a current list of vaccines that are included in the VICP, visit the Health Resources and Service Administration's (HRSA) VICP website at

Who Can File a Claim

The following people may file a claim under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program:

  • people who believe they've been injured by a covered vaccine
  • the parent or legal guardian of someone who has been injured, or
  • the representative of the estate of a person who died as a result of a covered vaccine.

Injury Caused by the Vaccine

Anyone filing a claim under the VICP must prove that the injury was caused by the vaccine.

Vaccine injury table. This table lists and explains injuries and conditions that are presumed to be caused by vaccines, along with the time period that symptoms occur. If the first symptom of the injury occurs within the listed time period, it is presumed that the vaccine was the cause of the injury or condition (unless another cause is found). You can find the most current version of the vaccine injury table on the HRSA's VICP website at

Injury or condition not on vaccine injury table. If an injury or condition is not on the table, it's still possible to prove that the injury was caused by the vaccine. This will require additional evidence like medical testimony and treatment records.

Aggravated injury. An injury may also be eligible for coverage via a VICP claim if the vaccine caused an existing condition or illness to get significantly worse.

Severity of Injury

The vaccine injury must also meet one of the following conditions:

  • lasted for at least six months after the vaccine was given
  • resulted in a hospital stay and surgery, or
  • resulted in death.

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