Although the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was established to compensate children injured by vaccines, the program is now compensating more adults injured by the flu vaccine.
In May of 2019, 39-year-old Cheron Golding was compensated by the vaccine court for injuries after receiving the flu vaccination in 2013. She was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, where part of her spinal cord became inflamed as result of damage to the nerve cells. She suffered from paralysis, loss of vision, and other injuries. Cheron was compensated more than $2 million, the highest settlement from the U.S. government so far. Today we speak to her lawyer, Randy Knutson.
Randy Knutson is a personal injury lawyer out of Mankato, Minnesota. He has practiced law for 26 years, 15 of those years working with vaccine injury cases through the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, also known as vaccine court.
The Vaccine Court’s Original Goal
Randy Knutson: The court was set up by Congress for people to come to this court, and if they were injured by a vaccine, they can apply to the fund. If the court finds that they were injured by the vaccine, they get paid. So it’s supposed to be a no-fault system, which means it’s not supposed to be really heavy litigation. It’s supposed to be fast; it’s supposed to be easy; it’s supposed to help those injured.
And what’s happened over the years is that it’s become very slow, slower than regular court. It’s become difficult for people injured to win. And so the purpose it started out for is kind of starting to fail. — Randy Knutson
How the Flu Vaccine Changed the Court
Randy Knutson: The big one was they started giving everyone the flu vaccine and promoting it, and everybody gets the flu vaccine, children, adults. And a lot of those folks are the ones who get GBS or transverse myelitis. So most of my clients had the flu vaccine and then they lost the movement of their arm, called SIRVA, or they got paralyzed from the flu vaccine.
So I think just because of how many people get the flu vaccine–it’s still rare to get hurt or injured–but there’s just so many people who can make the claim that the court now has become overwhelmed with cases. — Randy Knutson
Randy Knutson: The vaccine court has not gotten new funding for new lawyers. They’ve been requesting it for years, and it just is not of great importance to Congress. So all the lawyers are overworked. They need more lawyers. They don’t have the time and money to fight.
So we just get delayed and delayed and delayed. And my clients are usually out of work because they’re paralyzed, they’re running broke, they’re losing their houses, and they don’t have time to wait. And the problem is the court is so slow that many of my clients die waiting to get paid or they go broke before that can happen. — Randy Knutson
Why Are Children Turned Away Now?
Randy Knutson: Most of my clients are adults. And the reason that is, is if I take 10 phone calls a week, probably half of those are parents of children who say their child got a vaccine and then never looked at them or talked to them again, and they think they have autism.
Vaccine Court doesn’t compensate that. They’ve said that autism is not from vaccines. Science has not figured out if that’s true or not yet. So there’s no scientific proof one way or the other. — Randy Knutson
Randy Knutson: We mostly have clients who are 50 to 70 years old who got the flu vaccine or some other vaccine and ended up with Guillain-Barré syndrome. It was set up originally to be a children’s court, but because of the way things have changed, we mostly have adults as our clients.
How to Improve the System
How can the government improve the vaccine court and the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program?
Randy Knutson: I think first of all, Congress and the Senate and the President would have to do some funding. I can’t have every lawyer I talk to tell me they have five times too many cases because then they can’t get to my client’s case. If you’re going to have this program, allow the Justice Department to hire some more lawyers.
Allow Clients to Sue Vaccine Makers
Randy Knutson: I don’t know if you know this, but there was a Supreme Court case that said we cannot sue the vaccine makers. So my clients have vaccine court or no other option. They can’t sue the vaccine makers. If we could sue vaccine makers, they might be responsible for some of the problems that they’re having. But right now if you’re making a vaccine and you can’t be sued, you’re not likely to spend a lot of money testing.
For instance, I’m not aware of any tests that show that vaccines are safe to give to a pregnant woman or whether they’ll cross the placenta. Yet they continue to give them to pregnant women. Why? Because the vaccine makers I don’t think have the incentive. They can’t be sued or for whatever reason, so they’re not doing that. — Randy Knutson
Warn About the Side Effects
Randy Knutson: They agree that people should get compensated from the flu vaccine if they get GBS. The Justice Department agrees, the Department of Health in the United States agrees, they all agree this is happening, and yet they don’t tell anybody. So nobody knows. When you go and get the flu vaccine, do you know that you could get the Guillain-Barré syndrome or SIRVA? Nobody knows. So they do a very terrible job of telling people the risks.
And I think the reason that’s done is because they want everyone to get the flu vaccine. But people should be aware of the risk of getting it, and they should also be told what the effectiveness rate is for the flu vaccine. For people over 55, I think it works 17 percent of the time or 22 percent, so it only works one out of five times you get it. So they don’t tell you that either. — Randy Knutson
Press play to listen. Had you ever heard of the vaccine court before? Have your thoughts on the flu vaccine changed after hearing about Cheron Golding’s case? Please let us know in the comments below.
- Part one in this vaccine series explains how the National Vaccine Compensation Program was established and how it has changed over the years.