As a provider of immunizations, it is likely that you have heard of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). When someone feels as though he or she, or someone he or she loves, was injured by a vaccine, the first opportunity for seeking compensation is through this program. This program is part of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act passed by Congress in 1986 which had two goals:

  • To “quickly, easily, with certainty and generosity” compensate people injured by vaccines
  • To protect the country from a situation in which the potential for liability was so great that vaccine manufacturers no longer marketed vaccines

The latter was a legitimate concern at the time as manufacturers continued to leave the market in the midst of a flood of lawsuits claiming vaccines caused injury.

The NVICP is funded by a federal excise tax added to the price of every dose of vaccine sold. Unfortunately, misconceptions around this program make it an easy source of misinformation commonly used in efforts to convince parents that vaccines are not safe. This “four things to know” list might help you if parents are asking questions about the program:

Four things to know about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP):

  • Compensation does not prove causation.
  • People not happy with the outcome can still take their case the regular court.
  • The fund contains $3.5 billion not because people can’t get compensated but rather because the requirements of petitioners are often not satisfactorily met and in reality, vaccine injuries are rare.
  • The requirements for compensation are two-fold:
    • The events have to be temporally related.
    • Some biologically-plausible explanation as to why the two events could be related.

Dorit Reiss, a Professor of Law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law, recently published a thorough description of the law related to the NVICP on the Skeptical Raptor blog. The posting discusses how and why the program was established, issues with the program as it works today and the program in the greater context of the law.

Dr. Offit was recently a guest on NPR to participate in a discussion titled, “Are the Vaccine Court’s Requirements Too Strict?”

For additional information about the NVICP program, check these resources:

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.