Last year we learned a new acronym from our readers: SIRVA. It stands for Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration.
This is the first message we received:
“It has been seven weeks since I had my annual flu shot, and my arm is still sore at the injection site.
I do not think I have a Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA) from having the vaccine injected into the wrong area.
Nonetheless, the shoulder feels like I received the shot two days ago.
There appears to be anecdotal information that the new quad vaccine has left many recipients with sore arms for an extended period. Have you read any reports that this sore arm issue is widespread this year?
Is Shoulder Pain After a Flu Shot Something New?
At first we were surprised by this case report. In 40 years of reporting about adverse drug reactions we had never run into a report of SIRVA before. That may because we just never asked the question before. But starting last fall, we began hearing from a lot of other people who also reported trouble with sore arms after flu shot vaccinations last year.
In many cases, the presumption was that the pain, weakness and limited range of shoulder motion were due to injury to the tendons, ligaments or bursa of the shoulder from the injection itself. Tendon or ligament-related pain can be incredibility debilitating and can last a very long time.
Flu Shot Stories:
One reader wrote:
It has been almost one year since I had a flu shot at my local drugstore. I am unable to raise my left arm and any movement causes severe pain.
I wake up at night when I move in bed and am not guarding my arm. The pain is excruciating. I first thought it was tendinitis, but then realized this had been going on since right after I got the flu shot last year.
We have now gotten the first case report from this year’s flu season, though the vaccination period is barely underway:
On August 10, 2015, I got a flu shot at CVS for a new job. Initially I wanted to get it from my physician or the Occupational Health location where I got my TB shot, but neither had it in stock this early in the flu season. The pharmacist wiped the top of my shoulder with alcohol, then a little higher. When he injected, I saw him go in on the highest point of my deltoid. I felt pain with the injection.
Afterward, I asked why he injected so high. He said the vaccine needs to go into the deltoid. I think it needs to go into the meatiest part. That’s always been my experience and I’ve had many flu shots because I work in health care.
I felt pain driving home and by early evening I was taking a pain reliever. The pain was so severe I could not sleep on my left side (the arm that was injected).
Two days later I returned and told the pharmacist that he injured me and he needs to understand and document that. If it didn’t feel better, I was going to see my physician. After another week, I had to do just that. She referred me to an orthopedist to look into it further.
I am convinced this is a very real problem. There should be better protocols for anyone administering shots in the arm so they stay away from the top of the shoulder, especially the attachment point of the deltoid. This is incredibly painful, to the point of nausea. I also have poor range of motion and am unable to lift with that arm. It is a serious injury.
Education, awareness and compensation for the injured are all necessary. What more can we do to get the word out?”
Did You Know There is Compensation for Vaccine Injuries?
According to The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 24, 2015), compensation for SIRVA is on the rise. The cases are handled through vaccine court. Here is an overview of what the WSJ reported:
Since 2011, the government has paid about $18 million to 112 Sirva victims–more than half of those in the past year. Twenty cases are pending, and dozens are fielded by lawyers every month, a rise attributed to the growing number of immunizations and increased awareness of Sirva in part due to attorneys devoted to vaccine-related claims.
The money comes from a trust set up in 1988 under a program to shield vaccine manufacturers from liability. It is funded by a small surcharge on vaccines. Since 1988, some $3.2 billion has been paid for a range of injuries related to vaccinations, including arthritis, encephalitis, polio and even death, according to HRSA. The government says victims compensated represent just one of every one million inoculations.”
We’re not entirely convinced that all the shoulder injuries are because of poor injection technique. Some may also be related to the vaccine itself, but that remains uncertain. The FDA and public health officials are so enthusiastic about flu shots that they seem somewhat reluctant to investigate potential problems. It is easier to blame pharmacists and nurses for improper technique.
We certainly believe that anyone administering a flu shot should be adequately trained. Bad technique almost certainly has contributed to some of the problems that have been reported. But we also would like to see the FDA and the CDC investigate the possibility that the flu shot itself may be doing damage. What’s up with the new quad (four) shot vaccine anyway?
More Stories from Readers:
This came from C.O.L.
I had a flu shot last year. It was the first one ever and last one. I was injected high on the arm. That was the first mistake as I am a thin female (see CDC website).
Within an hour my arm was very painful. Everyone said it would be fine in a day or two. Five months later I am still dealing with it. With PT and home exercise its finally improving but I still cannot sleep on that side.
I have tried filling out the adverse effect form [FDA and CDC offer a place to report bad reactions] and every time I get to the fifth page and submit, it comes up an error. This is extremely frustrating. It would have been a lot easier to have gotten the flu!!!
“I started getting annual flu shots over 15 years ago when my parents first went into a retirement home. I had never had a problem until this year. I received my shot last October and still experience considerable discomfort and ‘pinching’ over 5 months later. There has been very minimal improvement. I had never heard of SIRVA before. I strongly believe that is what I have experienced.”
Sarah the nurse offers this:
I can’t believe how many people have the same complaint. I was curious what would come up on Google when I searched shoulder pain related to flu shot.
I never chose to get flu shots on my own. I didn’t believe in them. Since being accepted into a nursing program, it is a mandatory thing. I am so irate because this mandatory thing goes against my beliefs to begin with and then this happens! Shoulder pain that is limiting my mobility. My symptoms are a sore deltoid, limited motion at the shoulder joint and now what feels like tendonitis in my wrist.
Good thing I got this in my left arm since I’m right handed. Ugh! Something needs to be done to protect us in the medical field from these mandated flu shots. A strong immune system will likely protect us better than a shot.
H.I.S. from the UK shared this:
I received the flu vaccine in September 2014. I was given the jab while seated, but with the practice nurse standing. Unfortunately, it was into my left, dominant arm.
A large, tender lump appeared under the skin after a day or two and, although it has decreased in size, it is still there. Following this jab, I have experienced increasingly painful, restricted arm movement. It has significantly affected my daily activities.
My GP has only said that I must have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine and that the lump is scar tissue. I have been offered no treatment on the NHS, so I have now resorted to paying for private physiotherapy to try and undo some of the damage and prevent further damage.”
What’s Your Experience?
We would like to know how you have made out with a flu shot? Did it protect you from influenza? Or did you come down with the flu anyway? Last year’s shot wasn’t that great. Was it pain free or did you experience should pain? Please share your story below and vote on this article at the top of the page.