US Officials Reject Compensation for People Diagnosed With Covid-19 Vaccine Injuries
U.S. authorities rejected multiple people who sought compensation for covid-19 vaccine injuries, despite diagnoses from doctors, documents show.
Letters from U.S. officials reviewed by The Epoch Times show officials contradicting doctors who treated patients as they turned down requests for payment.
Cody Flint, an agricultural pilot, was diagnosed by four doctors with a severe adverse reaction to Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine. Shortly after being vaccinated, Flint experienced intense head pressure, which led to problems such as perilymphatic fistula, the doctors said.
Flint sent a slew of medical files, including evidence of the diagnoses, to the U.S. Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP), which compensates people who prove they were injured by a covid-19 shot.
But administrators for the program rejected Flint’s application in a denial letter, saying they “did not find the requisite evidence that the Pfizer covid-19 vaccination caused” the conditions from which he suffers.
Flint, in his 30s, felt his first symptoms within an hour of vaccination. An onslaught of severe symptoms followed while he was flying two days later.
“One second I went from having burning in the back of my neck and tunnel vision to the very next second I was slumped over in my airplane. The best way I know to describe it, it was like a bomb went off inside my head,” Flint said.
CICP administrators told him that “compelling, reliable and valid medical and scientific evidence does not support a causal association between the Pfizer covid-19 vaccine and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, perilymphatic fistulas, increased intracranial pressure, Eustachian tube dysfunction, hearing loss, or loss of eyesight.”
They also tried to pin the problems on barotrauma. Colloquially known as airplane ear, barotrauma happens when air pressure suddenly changes, and is common as planes climb higher in the sky. Barotrauma causes the fistulas and symptoms of the fistulas “began while flying,” administrators wrote.
Flint and his doctors asserted in appeal letters that the barotrauma theory doesn’t hold up because Flint flies low as he dusts crops. Flint’s condition is “not from barotrauma,” Flint’s doctors told the CICP. “As an agricultural pilot, he does not fly more than a couple of hundred feet off the ground which is not of a magnitude to where he is at risk for barotrauma.”
“Elevated intracranial pressure has been recognized as a complication of covid vaccination, and given the sequence of events, more probable than not, it is the cause of Mr. Flint’s elevated intracranial pressure, which had been documented on lumbar puncture,” they added. “The elevated intracranial pressure led to his perilymphatic fistula. Elevated intracranial pressure is a cause for perilymphatic fistula and more probable.”
The CICP determination was reviewed by a panel that sided with administrators. The panel found that the covid-19 vaccine “did not cause Mr. Flint to develop bilateral perlympathic fistulas and related symptoms,” Suma Nair, an administrator, told Flint in a final denial letter. “There is no compelling causal connection between the Pfizer covid-19 vaccine and the symptomology Mr. Flint experienced; the more likely cause of Mr. Flint’s symptoms is trauma from flying a plane, which would have developed over time.”
Administrators cited no studies or other evidence in their letters.
Flint said that the determination was wrong, pointing to a number of papers detailing post-vaccination intracranial and other neurological issues. He also noted a study that said intracranial pressure can cause perilymphatic fistulas.
Nair also said the panel concluded: “given the timeline of symptoms, it was not plausible for the Pfizer covid-19 vaccine to have caused the otologic and vestibular issues experienced by Mr. Flint.”
“It’s just all ironical to me,” Flint told The Epoch Times. “I get the shot, I’m injured within 48 hours, and they say that it is implausible.”
Difficulty Getting Compensation
The case highlights how people who experienced problems after vaccination have struggled to get money from the federal government, even when doctors diagnose vaccine injuries.
Flint is one of 76 people who were rejected as of April 1 because administrators determined they did not “show that a covered serious physical injury was sustained as the direct result of the administration” of a covid-19 vaccine.
“The CICP may only make such determinations based on compelling, reliable, valid, medical and scientific evidence,” the program says.
More than 8,100 applications, as of April 1, have been submitted to the CICP for compensation for a covid-19 vaccine-induced injury or death. Three hundred and sixty-two in total have been turned down. Just 23 have been accepted. All but two are for a type of heart inflammation called myocarditis or a related condition known as pericarditis, both of which U.S. authorities say are caused by covid-19 vaccination.
Documents on the denials and acceptances have been largely withheld from the public. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, successful in unearthing information about covid-19 vaccine safety, have yielded few documents. Administrators located 652 records in response to one request seeking all claims and associated documents. They only released 52 heavily redacted documents, citing exceptions to FOIA. A similar request returned a single page that wasn’t already public.
Covid-19 vaccine injuries fall under the CICP, a little-used program before the pandemic that was created by Congress in a 2005 bill.
Most administered vaccines in the United States fall under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, enabling people with alleged or actual injuries to take their cases to federal judges in a no-fault system that paid out $4.8 billion between 1988 and 2022.
Decisions on CICP petitions, in contrast, are decided by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)—the same agency that operates the program.
That “potentially creates a conflict of interest,” researchers wrote in a 2022 paper, advising Congress to initiate major reforms by either relocating the program or allowing judicial review of determinations.
Some members, including Sens. Cindy-Hyde Smith (R-Miss.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) have expressed interest in reform but no bills have gained traction yet in the divided Congress.
People who apply to the CICP are only eligible for money for unreimbursed medical expenses and lost pay. Survivors of people who die can get death benefits. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program covers past and future healthcare costs, pain and suffering, lost earnings, and legal fees.
The CICP has paid just $6 million to date, including under $5,000 total to the only three people who were injured by covid-19 vaccines and have been compensated.
HHS and HRSA did not respond to requests for comment.
‘All These People Are Going to Get Denied’
Dr. Joel Wallskog was one of the first people to receive Moderna’s covid-19 vaccine. He got a shot on Dec. 30, 2020. Within days, he experienced symptoms including a loss of balance, headaches, and leg weakness.
“I was completely healthy, very active,” Wallskog, 53, told The Epoch Times. “Now I take 20 medicines.”
Wallskog was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, or spinal cord inflammation. At least two doctors have concluded the injury was caused by the vaccine, records show.
Wallskog transmitted medical records and supplementary documents, such as a study from National Institutes of Health researchers that discussed reports of neuropathic symptoms following covid-19 vaccination. The same researchers diagnosed multiple people with vaccine injuries.
CICP administrators rejected Wallskog’s petition.
“The current medical and scientific evidence does not show a causal link between the Moderna covid-19 vaccine and transverse myelitis, other neuro-inflammatory disorders, myelopathy, or thrombotic disorders, including spinal cord infarction,” Dr. George Reed Grimes, director of the HRSA’s Division of Injury Compensation Programs, wrote in the denial letter.
“Furthermore, there is no evidence that your symptoms of lower extremity numbness and tingling with neck flexion, and chronic thoracic pain with weakness and numbness in your legs, is caused by the Moderna covid-19 vaccine,” he added.
Administrators did not note the doctors’ diagnoses or cite any studies.
One doctor had written in office notes that Wallskog suffered a “significant reaction from Moderna covid vaccination.”
Wallskog disputed the determination, writing in an appeal that “an exhaustive work-up revealed no other cause of my symptoms besides my Moderna shot.”
An appeal, or request for reconsideration, sends the determination to “a qualified panel, independent of the program,” according to federal law. The panel reviews the determination and sends its recommendation back to the program, which makes the final determination.
Twenty-eight studies have documented transverse myelitis following covid-19 vaccination, a systematic review published in October 2022 found. Those include case reports of transverse myelitis after a Moderna shot. Researchers said the exact mechanisms for vaccine-induced transverse myelitis remain unclear but posited genetic factors play a role.
Wallskog said that at the present time, only people who suffer a narrow set of injuries can expect to be compensated by the U.S. government.
“Many people have this false sense that the CICP is going to be their answer, and it’s not,” he said. “All these people are going to get denied unless they have myocarditis, anaphylaxis, or certain blood clotting conditions.”
Vaccine manufacturers are not liable for injuries due to laws like the PREP Act. That leaves people with few options when they’re injured.
Wallskog helped found a group called React19, which describes itself as a “science-based non-profit offering financial, physical, and emotional support for those suffering from long-term covid-19 vaccine adverse events.”
Drawing from a pool of donated money, the group has so far paid $556,652 to the vaccine injured, with 81 people receiving compensation.
Applicants need to provide a medical note or consultation documenting symptoms and signs they’re related to vaccination.
Group officials, including Wallskog, review each application and make a determination during weekly board meetings. They give out grants of up to $10,000.
The donations come from what the group describes as a care fund.
“Unfortunately, the care fund is on hold right now because we’re low on money,” Wallskog said. “I always say we wish we had more money but at the same point we’re doing with React what our healthcare organizations and our federal agencies should be doing.”
The program could help people like Angie Bluford, who did not apply to the CICP because of the one-year deadline. Bluford wasn’t diagnosed with a vaccine injury until 18 months after getting a Moderna covid-19 vaccination.
React19 is also advocating for reform of the CICP or moving injury claims from the CICP to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, widely considered the superior option. That would require adding the covid-19 vaccines to the routine immunization schedule, which has already been done; adding vaccines to the vaccine injury table, and congressional approval of an excise tax. Coverage under the national program should be retroactive, React19 says.
It’s taken more than a year for some injured people to get a determination.
There were still 7,771 applications pending as of April 1.
One was sent in by Steve Wenger, a project manager whose covid-19 vaccination caused Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder that damages the immune system.
Wenger, who got vaccinated to avoid losing his job, submitted his application in March 2022. He didn’t receive confirmation until July 2022. He’s still waiting for the outcome.
“The CICP cannot estimate when the medical review will begin or how long it may take to complete,” administrators told him in a letter.
“It’s a waiting game,” Wenger said. “To be honest, I’m waiting on my rejection letter, because that’s what I’m expecting.”
Wenger’s pessimism stems from the high rejection rate and the fact no claims for Guillain-Barre syndrome have been approved despite U.S. authorities acknowledging the Johnson & Johnson covid-19 vaccine causes the disorder.
Wenger has been dealing with large medical bills, including thousands of dollars for biweekly treatments with intravenous immunoglobulin, one of the few drugs that have helped those with lingering injuries from the vaccines. Even if CICP approves Wenger’s petition, the money likely wouldn’t last long.
“I’ve read stories that medical debt has just absolutely destroyed people, financially buried them,” Wenger said. “I never envisioned myself being one of those people. But you know, here I am.”
June 17, 2023