What is SIRVA (Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration)?

The vaccine injury table lists some injuries for only one or two vaccines. Intussusception, for example, is a “table injury” only for the rotavirus vaccine. Branchial neuritis, on the other hand, is a table injury for any vaccine that contains tetanus toxoid. A few vaccine injuries, like transverse myelitis, aren’t table injuries at all. (Of course, you can pursue a case in vaccine court regardless of whether your injury is listed on the injury table if you meet certain criteria.)

However, some conditions appear on the table for nearly every covered vaccine. For example, people may experience anaphylaxis (severe allergic reactions) or syncopal episodes (fainting) after multiple kinds of vaccines. This month, I am writing about one of these usual suspects: SIRVA.

What is SIRVA?

SIRVA is the acronym for “Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration.” It refers to cases where vaccine recipients suffer damage to the shoulder’s musculoskeletal structure. In other words, SIRVA affects the parts of your shoulder that allow you to move your arm comfortably. Usually, it manifests as sudden pain or a decreased range of motion within 48 hours of a vaccine injection, but it shares these symptoms with many other conditions, including nerve damage. As a result, it can be tricky for laypeople to tell the difference.

SIRVA can result when a shot intended for your shoulder muscle is administered too high and punctures a sac of fluid called a bursa. As a result, the area becomes inflamed. Normally, bursas cushion your joints, but with your deltoid bursa inflamed, moving your arm can become painful. SIRVA is treatable, and people do recover from it. However, it is not pleasant, and treatment can take time.

One additional thing to remember is that SIRVA actually results from a misplaced injection and not the contents of a vaccine.

How is SIRVA treated?

SIRVA is typically treated with physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, pain relievers, and steroid injections. Occasionally people need surgery to treat SIRVA.

What vaccines do doctors associate with SIRVA?

Because SIRVA results from misplaced injections, it can develop from any of the injectable vaccines listed on the table. Of the seventeen entries on the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program’s table (one of which is a catch-all for future vaccines), all list SIRVA as a table injury. In order to fully qualify as a table injury, your SIRVA must have developed within forty-eight hours of your receiving the shot.

Of course, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) also compensates people for so-called “non-table injuries.” In fact, ninety-five percent of cases brought involve a non-table injury, according to this Wired article. Rather what SIRVA being a table injury means is that the government has the burden of showing the injection wasn’t responsible for the injury instead of you having to prove that it was.

What are some signs of SIRVA?

As noted on this website, shoulder pain lasting no more than “a day or two” can be par for the course for any vaccine; but, SIRVA tends to involve a longer period of time. Have your symptoms lasted for more than a couple of days? Do you have trouble moving your arm? Crucially, is this the first time you have had chronic pain in your shoulder? If you meet these criteria, speak to your physician.

To elaborate, SIRVA tends to involve pain that appears shortly after vaccination. This pain tends to prevent people from moving the arm where they got the shot with the same ease as before. And it arises specifically because of a mechanical injury causing damage to the shoulder musculoskeletal structure, not the nerves themselves.

What are some ways to prevent SIRVA?

The link cited in the last section has some good recommendations: Make sure the person vaccinating you is a trained professional. Give that person as much of an unobstructed a view of your shoulder as possible. SIRVA results from getting a shot in the wrong place, so consider doing more than just rolling up your sleeves. Taking off your entire shirt—or wearing one you can slip your arm out of if that is more comfortable for you—can go a long way.

What kind of compensation can I receive from the VICP?

The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program offers three categories of compensation:

  1. Out of pocket Medical expenses
  2. Pain and suffering
  3. Loss of earning capacity

If you suffer from SIRVA or another vaccine injury, and you win your case in vaccine court, depending on your particular circumstances, you could receive compensation for all three categories. Because the VICP covers the costs of bringing your case to trial, even if your case is not successful your attorney fees and expenses are still covered by the program.

According to this article, the VICP compensated 202 people for SIRVA in 2016. According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, “[t]otal compensation paid over the life of [the Vaccine Injury Compensation] program is approximately $4.0 billion.”

Does the risk of SIRVA mean I shouldn’t vaccinate?

Ultimately, whether or not to receive and vaccination is a question only your doctor can help you answer. No website knows your unique circumstances. However, the risk of SIRVA remains relatively low. Although it represents one of the most common types of vaccine injuries, vaccine injuries themselves are very rare. To paraphrase the HRSA’s website, between 2006 and 2016, your odds of getting a compensable vaccine injury were one in one million. Plenty of people receive vaccines without ever suffering any injuries, and for most, the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks.

For the small portion of people who do suffer an injury, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program can offer compensation. If you have suffered a vaccine injury, you need experienced allies. We are a true team of legal professionals and can use our knowledge to help you. To get started contact us today.