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Workers' Compensation and Other Benefits Related to Vaccines

January 25, 2021


            As we near one year of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, some hope and relief is in sight as several vaccines have begun to be administered[i]. While many people anxiously await the opportunity to receive one of these vaccines, others worry about risks associated with them, with some reports of adverse reactions and even death suffered by persons who have received the COVID-19 vaccine[ii].

            In certain occupations, employers may require or strongly encourage their employees to be vaccinated. It has been recognized since the beginning of the pandemic that workers in some employments are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 due to frequent contact with the general public, including, among others: nurses, doctors, and other medical care professionals; first responders such as police officers, firefighters, and paramedics; correctional officers; grocery store and other retail workers; bus driver; teachers and childcare professionals. While these workers certainly may be at a higher risk of exposure, no one who interacts in any fashion with the public or with their coworkers is immune from exposure.

          But what if an employee who gets vaccinated at the direction or recommendation of his or her employer suffers an adverse reaction? What compensation or other remedy is available to recover lost wages or medical expenses that may arise as a result of the adverse reaction.

            Workers’ Compensation benefits may certainly be available. Past decisions in New York have found work-related injuries to have occurred when an employee suffers an injury or adverse reaction as result of an employer required or recommended vaccination [Mohawk Valley Child & Youth, 2001 NY Wrk Comp 698705083 (compensable injury related to adverse reaction from hepatitis B vaccine); Canton Potsdam Hospital, 2010 NY Wrk Comp 0065897 (claim for adverse reaction to TDAP vaccine); Dutchess County Dept. of Health, 2010 NY Wrk Comp 57912423 (claim established for adverse reaction to rubella vaccine)]. See also, Scipio Volunteer Fire Dept., 2011 NY Wrk Comp 000128 (injury due to H1N1 vaccine compensable); Blossom North LLC, 2015 NY Wrk Comp 0671597 (Guillain-Barre Syndrome caused by flu vaccine compensable); Montefiore MC, 2015 NY Wrk Comp 070154 (injury to left arm and consequential hyper-immune reaction caused by flu vaccine compensable); and Mt. Sanai Medical Center, 2015 NY Wrk Comp 0695787 (injury to rotator cuff caused by needle for flu vaccine being placed too high on the arm was a compensable injury).  

            It has likewise been found in Florida  that an injury  related to receiving   a vaccination   administered by an employer can result in a work-related injury covered by Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law [Monette v. Manatee Memorial Hospital, 579 So.2d 195 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991) (injury sustained by employee who was provided a flu vaccination by the hospital where she worked)].

            There is no reason to believe that employees who are either required or encouraged by their employers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine should be any less entitled to workers’ compensation benefits then employees who had suffered injuries related to these other vaccines.

            Workers’ Compensation benefits consist of payment of medical expenses associated with the work-related injury, reimbursement for travel to and from that treatment, compensation benefits for wage loss associated with lost time due to the injury or illness, and in certain circumstances, awards for permanent impairment.

            In addition to benefits available under the Workers’ Compensation Law, any person who believes he or she has been injured as a result of a vaccine may be entitled to recover under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP)[iii]. The VICP may provide financial compensation to someone who files a petition and is found to have been injured by a VICP-covered vaccine. New York’s Court of Appeals has ruled that an injured worker’s recovery under the VICP has no effect on his or her entitlement to benefits under the New York Workers’ Compensation Law [Atkinson v. City of New York, 96 NY2d 809 (2001)]. Not all vaccines are covered by VICP[iv], and at the present time the COVID-19 vaccines are not covered.

            If you or someone you know has suffered any complications from a vaccine, call The Law Firm of Alex Dell, PLLC for a free consultation on the potential benefits available to you under the law. For over 25 years, The Law Firm of Alex Dell, PLLC has represented injured and disabled individuals throughout New York State with their New York State Workers’ Compensation, New York State Disability Retirement, Social Security Disability and Veterans Administration claims. That representation is now provided in Florida as well. 

         Should you have any questions or you would like to discuss this matter with us further, please contact us at 1-866-965-2667

         We are here to help you.

[i] At present, two vaccines are authorized and recommended to prevent COVID-19, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and Moderna vaccine; with three other vaccines currently in Phase 3 of clinical trials including those created by AstraZeneca, Janssen and Novavax