RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The flu vaccine can save lives, but when the shot is given in the wrong spot, it can cause severe pain — sometimes even permanent damage.
8News has uncovered hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been paid out to those who got the flu shot in the wrong place.
“It just didn’t feel right, it was achy all the way down my arm,” A Virginia woman, who wished to remain anonymous, recalled from a 2013 flu shot she received at a pharmacy. “I had turned my head, kind of like I always do.”
But she immediately knew that something was wrong.
“I had a different pain sensation than you usually get with a flu shot,” she explained.
A few days later, she was still experiencing those same pains shooting down her arm — an arm she could barely lift.
“Limited range of motion, hurt to wash my hair, get dishes out of the cabinet,” she said.
Across the country in Washington, Ron Flood struggled to open his refrigerator door after getting his 2014 flu shot.
“It was painful and I knew something was not right at that time,” said Flood, who had his doctor take a look the next day. “I had left the band-aide on and she could tell it was given too high up in the shoulder.”
Both were victims of SIRVA, which stands for ‘Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration.’ It’s a rare condition when a vaccine is given in the wrong spot. It should be injected into the thick portion of the deltoid muscle.
“I didn’t even know there was a name for it,” the Virginia woman added.
It’s a nearly $3.8 billion dollar federal fund that protects vaccine makers and those who give the shots from being sued and you pay for it.
“Seventy five cents of the vaccine that is provided in the United States goes to help support this fund,” explained Richmond lawyer Glen Sturtevant, whose law firm — Rawls Law Group — has helped Flood, the Virginia victim and others petition for compensation after a vaccine injury.
“We’ve represented more than 200 clients all over the country,” Sturtevant said.
For both Flood and the Virginia woman, it was a long road to recovery. After cortisone shots and physical therapy didn’t work, they needed surgery.
“They found that my labrum in my shoulder was shearing and they found a nick in my rotator cuff and a bunch of bursitis,” Flood said.
Since 2011, 8News has discovered 522 people — including the Virginia patient and Flood — have been compensated for a SIRVA injury. The payouts for medical expenses and suffering totaling more than $71 million.
“It also compensates them for having to take time off of work as result of the injuries,” Sturtevant explained.
“It was horrible waking up every day having pain and having to be on pain medicines all the time,” Flood added.
Every state has its own requirement for training and who can give flu shots. 8News has learned Virginia allows pharmacists — and even their interns — to give the shots, although their training is often different from a doctor or nurse. 8News also found many of the claims filed involved pharmacy flu shots.
Still, both the Virginia patient and Flood, who say they are much better now, tell us they still get flu shots.
“I get a flu shot every year,” Flood said.
“I feel fine today,” the Virginia patient said.
They do, however, admit to keeping a close eye on where that shot is administered.
“I still get my flu shot, I just make sure now that I always look,” the Virginia woman said.
“I am definitely more aware, I can tell you that,” Flood added.
In these federal cases, whatever the cash award is, 100 percent of it goes to the victim. Attorneys fees are paid by the fund.