How Is a Flu Vaccine Injury Diagnosed?

Injuries from the flu shot are the most common type of vaccine-related injury. Of course, this is due in large part to the fact that the flu shot is the most common vaccine administered in the United States. Each year, around half of the U.S. population gets a flu shot, and a small percentage of flu shot recipients experience a flu vaccine injury.

One way we can track the prevalence of flu shot injuries is by looking at the claims filed under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). Since the VICP began accepting claims in 1988, just under 10,000 claimants have received financial compensation. Of the 9,738 claims compensated through the first half of the federal government’s 2023 fiscal year,  well over half—5,473—have involved flu vaccine injuries.

Diagnosing an Injury from a Flu Shot: Side Effects vs. Symptoms

Diagnosing an injury from a flu shot starts with differentiating between side effects and symptoms. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu shot can cause a variety of mild side effects that are not symptomatic of a flu vaccine injury. These side effects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Low-grade fever
  • Low-grade headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Soreness
  • Swelling
  • Redness

According to the CDC, these side effects should gradually subside, and they should go away completely within a few days for most flu shot recipients. If any of these side effects do not go away—or if they get worse instead of getting better—this could be one of the first signs of a flu vaccine injury.

Along with side effects that don’t go away, flu shot injuries can have a variety of other symptoms. There are several types of flu shot injuries, and each injury has its own symptoms, treatment options and potential complications. Some of the most-common types of flu shot injuries and their typical symptoms are:

  • Brachial Neuritis (Parsonage Turner Syndrome) – Pain that only affects one side of the body; weakness, limpness or paralysis in the affected arm or shoulder; lack of sensation in the affected arm or shoulder; lack of muscle control in the affected arm or shoulder.
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) – Pain in the arms, legs, hands and feet; tingling and weakness originating in the legs; difficulty walking; difficulty breathing; difficulty maintaining balance; loss of bowel and bladder control; loss of eye and facial control; loss of reflexes; sudden change in heart rate or blood pressure.
  • Shoulder Injuries Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA) – Moderate to severe pain in the arm or shoulder, limited arm or shoulder mobility, loss of muscle strength, and a numbness or tingling sensation in the arm or shoulder.

How Doctors Diagnose Flu Vaccine Injuries

When a patient seeks treatment for a potential flu shot injury, the treating physician will typically go through a series of diagnostic steps. If one of these steps confirms a patient’s diagnosis, then further steps will be unnecessary. To diagnose flu shot injuries, doctors use diagnostic measures including (but not necessarily limited to):

  • Physical Exam – Conducting a physical examination is typically the first step in the diagnostic process. During this exam, the doctor will ask questions about the patient’s symptoms and begin to narrow down possible diagnoses.
  • Blood Panel – If a patient’s symptoms are consistent with GBS, the doctor may order a blood panel. This is a series of tests conducted using a sample of the patient’s blood. Depending on the patient’s test results, the blood panel may either point toward a GBS diagnosis, or it may suggest that the patient is experiencing another form of flu vaccine injury.
  • MRI or Ultrasound – Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound scans can be used to identify abnormalities in the soft tissue beneath the skin. These abnormalities may indicate brachial neuritis, shoulder bursitis or another form of SIRVA.

Again, these are just examples. When you see a doctor, you should be sure to mention your flu shot, and you should describe your symptoms as thoroughly as possible. This will help your doctor determine what tests are necessary, and it will help your doctor focus on the right indicators in order to provide an accurate diagnosis.

What Should You Do if You Have Concerns About a Flu Vaccine Injury?

If you have concerns about a flu vaccine injury, what should you do? Any time you have concerns about your health, seeing a doctor should be your first priority. As we just mentioned, you should be specific about your concerns during your doctor’s visit, and you should not hesitate to ask if you have questions about your symptoms or diagnosis.

If your doctor diagnoses you with a flu vaccine injury, you should also speak with a lawyer about your legal rights. Specifically, you should speak with a lawyer who represents individuals and families in claims under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The VICP is a federal program that covers the financial and non-financial costs of flu shot injuries for eligible vaccine recipients.

Filing a VICP Claim for a Flu Vaccine Injury

Once you receive a diagnosis, you can hire a lawyer to help you pursue a flu vaccine injury claim under the VICP. Since the VICP covers claimants’ legal fees, you can hire a lawyer to represent you at no cost. When you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will prepare your petition, file it with the Vaccine Court, and negotiate for a just settlement on your behalf. Most successful VICP claims settle, but your lawyer can also take your claim to a hearing at the Vaccine Court if necessary.

Do You Have a VICP Claim for a Flu Vaccine Injury?

If you are coping with the effects of a flu vaccine injury, we encourage you to contact us for more information about filing a claim under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. We represent flu shot recipients and their families nationwide. To discuss your VICP claim with attorney Leah V. Durant in confidence, please call 202-800-1711 or request a free initial consultation online today.


Leah Durant Bio

Experienced litigation attorney Leah Durant focuses on representing clients in complex vaccine litigation matters. Leah Durant is the owner and principal attorney of the Law Offices of Leah V. Durant, PLLC, a litigation firm based in Washington, DC. Leah Durant and her staff represent clients and their families who suffer from vaccine-related injuries, adverse vaccine reactions and vaccine-related deaths. The Law Offices of Leah V. Durant, PLLC is dedicated to assisting individuals in recovering the highest level of compensation as quickly and efficiently as possible. To learn more, contact vaccine attorney Leah Durant today.