Sounds scary, right? That's a huge amount of money. Like vaccines are very, very dangerous. But the anti-vaccine movement has forgotten one important step: the denominator. Relative to vaccines, one denominator might be how many vaccines have been distributed. Another might be, how many claims have been compensated.
Let's take a moment to look closely at the figures and what they mean.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) has been hearing petitions and awarding compensation for 27 years. (See History of Vaccines for an excellent guide to the program.) NVICP now publishes a monthly report on the workings of the program. The format of the reports has changed over the years, so year-to-year comparisons are difficult. The data sets are a bit messy, as some are aggregated over calendar years, while others are presented broken out by federal fiscal years (FY) -- from October 1 to September 31. For example, the table on pages 2-3 of the current report lists the total number of vaccines, by diseases prevented, distributed from January 1 2006 to December 31 2014. The table on pages 8-9 lists awards by fiscal year. However, for the purposes of a bird's eye view, it's acceptable to aggregating these together.
- Total number of vaccines distributed, 1/1/2006-12/31/2014 = 2,532,428,541
- Total number of vaccine injury awards, FY 2006 - FY 2014 = 2,140
- Total amount of vaccine injury awards, FY 2006-FY 2014 = $1,306,003,930.68
- Vaccine injury awards per million doses of vaccines distributed, FY 2006-FY 2014 = 0.85
- Total amount of vaccine injury awards divided by total number of vaccines distributed, FY 2006-FY 2014 = $0.52
- Total amount of vaccine injury awards divided by the total number of vaccine injury awards, FY 2006 - FY 2014 = $610,282.21
At this scale, it looks like the NVICP, although not perfect, is working well enough. Vaccine injuries are very, very rare: less than one per million doses of vaccines distributed. The $0.75/vaccine surcharge is easily more than the average cost of awards per vaccine; the average payout is not huge, given how serious many of the conditions are, but is not stingy either. The 2010 handout from the U.S. Court Of Federal Claims Office Of Special Masters', Vaccine Program Background, reads:
There is a wide range of awards depending on the severity of injury, with the highest award currently being $9.1 million in present dollars.
So the next time you see one of those scary headlines or images, stop to think about how many vaccines are used, safely and effectively, to prevent diseases. Be thankful that the U.S. has a program to compensate the very, very few people who do have an adverse outcome from vaccination. Vaccinate your children, and as adults, make sure you are up-to-date on recommended vaccines.
Other articles on the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
- February 24, 2011 John Snyder at Science-Based Medicine Supreme Court Saves Nation’s Immunization Program (Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, Inc.)
- March 5, 2013: Allison Hagood guest posting at Tara Haelle's blog, Red Wine and Applesauce A Look at the Numbers in Vaccine Reactions
- September 12, 2013 Orac Knows at Respectful Insolence The Canary Party and Rob Schneider versus the Vaccine Court: Guess who wins?
- November 8, 2013 Dorit Ress at Shot of Prevention Blog: Doing Away With NVICP: Bad For Plaintiffs, Bad For Society
- November 12, 2013 Amy Pisani at Shot of Prevention Blog Take Action In Support of National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
- November 22, 2013: Dorit Reiss at U.C. Hastings School of Law's Viewpoint: Dismantling Vaccine Injury Program Is Bad for All of Us
- April 13, 2014 Dorit Reiss at Skeptical Raptor Blog Price V HHS – Statute Of Limitations, Tolling, Vaccines And Autism
- November 25, 2014: Dorit Ress at Shot of Prevention Blog: The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: What Does the AP Report Really Show?
- March 3, 2015 Liz Ditz at I Speak of Dreams: Vaccine Injury: Real, but Exceedingly Rare.
- June 9, 2015: Dorit Reiss at Skeptical Raptor Blog National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program Facts
- August 11, 2015: Dorit Reiss at Shot of Prevention blog “A Dose of Reality” Does Not Support Abolishing the VICP
- September 7, 2015: Dorit Reiss at Skeptical Raptor Blog The Vaccine Court – Causation And Administrative Discretion
- October 27, 2015 Dorit Reiss and Michael Simpson at Skeptical Raptor Blog Shoulder Injury Related To Vaccine Administration And NVICP
- November 27, 2015 Dorit Reiss at Skeptical Raptor Blog Vaccine Injury Compensation And Autoimmune Syndromes
- November 27, 2015 Dirot Reiss at Skeptical Raptor Blog Vaccine Injury Compensation And Mitochondrial Disorders
- January 26, 2016: Dorit Reiss at Skeptical Raptor Blog NVICP Compensation For Guillain-Barré Syndrome – Facts
Background posts on the Omnibus Autism Proceeding (OAP)
- No date, U.S. Court Of Federal Claims Office Of Special Masters: Background on the Omnibus Autism Proceeding
- January 21, 2012 Matt Carey at LeftBrain-RightBrain Autism The Omnibus Autism Proceeding: effectively over
Glossary: The fiscal year is the accounting period for the federal government which begins on October 1 and ends on September 30. The fiscal year is designated by the calendar year in which it ends; for example, fiscal year 2013 begins on October 1, 2012 and ends on September 30, 2013.