A new study has found that 7.7 people will develop shoulder injuries for every 1 million people who get a flu shot.
The study was prompted by a 20-fold increase in the number of people seeking compensation for Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA) due to flu shots between 2012 and 2016.
Shoulder injury claims have recently flooded the U.S. government’s vaccine court that pays compensation for vaccine injuries, prompting regulators to quietly propose banning payouts for this type of injury.
From 2016 to 2019, the payouts ranged from $50,000 to $123,000 per person, resulting in a total payout of $119 million.
To investigate the risk, Dr. Elisabeth Hesse and colleagues looked at data from 2.9 million flu shots that were administered at 7 sites in the U.S. from September 1, 2016 through June 1, 2017.
Out of 2.9 million flu shots, the researchers identified 257 cases of shoulder injuries — diagnosed as “subdeltoid bursitis” — and they estimated that 7.7 people would develop shoulder injuries for every 1 million people who received a flu shot.
Bursitis (shoulder inflammation) is a problem for about 1% of the U.S. population and is usually caused by injuries or overuse. The telltale symptom of SIRVA is shoulder pain that begins within 48 hours of the vaccine. Other signs include limited mobility and inflammation.
The researchers could not confirm whether the shoulder injuries were caused by the needle being injected too high on the arm or too deep, but they did suggest that continued education for healthcare workers could help decrease the number of SIRVA injuries after flu vaccines.
- Fryhofer SA, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2020;doi:10.7326/M20-3302.
- Hesse EM, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2020;doi:10.7326/M19-2176.