Even the bestselling flu vaccine is only the fifth most popular vaccine in the United States. Prevnar, the vaccine used to prevent infection caused by pneumococcal bacteria; Gardasil, which supposedly prevents cervical cancer; PENTAct-HIB, given to tiny infants to stave off diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, poliomyelitis, and Haemophilus influenzae type b; and Infanrix/Pediarix, a vaccine indicated for active immunization against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, infection caused by all known subtypes of hepatitis B virus, and poliomyelitis; are all far more popular than the flu vaccine.
Nonetheless, a report released in 2013 by the Department of Justice, shows that more than half of all claims settled by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, also known as the Vaccine Court, were for injuries caused by the influenza vaccine.
As reported by Health Impact News, during the period covering 16 August to 15 November 2013, 139 claims were settled by the Vaccine Court, 70 of which received compensation. Of these settled claims, 42 – or 60 percent – were for injuries caused by the flu vaccine. The remaining 40 percent were for injuries caused by 11 other vaccines.
The greatest number of injuries by far that were reported as a result of the flu vaccine were for Guillain-Barré Syndrome, or GBS, a condition which the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke describes as follows:
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The first symptoms of this disorder include varying degrees of weakness or tingling sensations in the legs. In many instances the symmetrical weakness and abnormal sensations spread to the arms and upper body. These symptoms can increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the person is almost totally paralyzed. In these cases the disorder is life threatening – potentially interfering with breathing and, at times, with blood pressure or heart rate – and is considered a medical emergency. Such an individual is often put on a ventilator to assist with breathing and is watched closely for problems such as an abnormal heart beat, infections, blood clots, and high or low blood pressure. Most individuals, however, have good recovery from even the most severe cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, although some continue to have a certain degree of weakness.