High school senior Emma Burkey received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID vaccine April 1. Within two weeks she was placed in an induced coma. She underwent three brain surgeries after experiencing seizures and developing blood clots in her brain.
When Burkey was well enough to be transferred from the hospital to a rehabilitation center, her first round of bills totaled $513,000.
Friends of the 18-year-old’s family turned to GoFundMe to raise money to help cover Burkey’s mounting medical costs. As of July 7, more than $59,000 had been raised.
The family hopes most of Burkey’s medical costs will be covered by insurance — but that’s unclear, as the cost of their daughter’s medical care could run into millions of dollars.
“Right now it feels like the national debt,” a family spokesperson said. “It’s so big you can’t get your head around it.”
According to a recent update on Burkey’s GoFundMe page, Burkey is still in intensive rehab, remains in a wheelchair and was able to stand unassisted for the first time July 6 — almost four months after she got the vaccine.
More than 180 people seeking help on GoFundMe
As The Defender reported July 1, research compiled by a group in Mesa County, Colorado, showed as of June 25 there were more than 180 GoFundMe accounts seeking help for people who had suffered injuries after receiving a COVID vaccine and were left with large medical bills and other expenses.
Alicia Smith, 34, is a hairdresser who felt pressured by the media to get a COVID vaccine to make her clients feel safe. After receiving her second dose of Pfizer on April 15 at a Walgreens, she immediately experienced negative side effects, including swelling, loss of feeling, inability to breathe and symptoms of Bell’s Palsy.
Bell’s Palsy is unexplained facial muscle weakness or paralysis caused by damage to the facial nerve that causes one side of the face to droop. The condition usually resolves on its own within six months, but in rare cases, may be permanent.
A neurologist at Louisiana State University told Smith her symptoms were caused by anxiety and urged her to seek cognitive therapy. Two months after being hospitalized and undergoing rehab, Smith still cannot return to work because of severe uncontrollable body tremors and Bell’s Palsy on the right side of her face.
Stacie [last name unknown] is a third grade teacher who developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) three weeks after receiving J&J’s COVID vaccine. She went to the emergency room several times after getting the shot because she was experiencing numbness of the lower extremities, but was sent home when tests were inconclusive.
The numbness continued to progress and Stacie eventually lost her ability to stand and walk. She was then hospitalized and diagnosed with GBS.
After several weeks, Stacie was able to take a few steps with the aid of a walker and physical therapist. She was transferred to an intensive rehab facility. A friend started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Stacie’s medical bills.
Lakela Thomas started taking medicine for seronegative arthritis on April 1. The next day she received her first COVID vaccine. Within three weeks, Thomas developed severe chest pain, a rash that covered her body, and swollen hands, feet and lips. Thomas spent more than two weeks in the hospital and is now on at least 14 medications.
Doctors believe Thomas is now suffering from several autoimmune conditions, including Steven Johnson Syndrome — a severe medical emergency that affects the skin and mucous membranes associated with oral medications and other vaccines — neuropathy, a severe flare of seronegative arthritis, thrush, and pericarditis and Behçet’s Disease, rare disorder that causes blood vessel inflammation throughout the body.
Almost three months after her COVID vaccine, Thomas has not improved. Her husband started a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs of medical expenses and lost wages, as she is unable to return to work and he must now provide care for his wife and daughter.
Gary Spaulding was an active landscaper who experienced a severe headache after receiving J&J’s COVID vaccine, causing him to go to the emergency room.
Doctors immediately diagnosed Spaulding with Lyme Disease. Treatment was started, but numbness and tingling in his extremities progressed. After doctors initiated tests to determine the cause of the escalating series of symptoms, Spaulding was diagnosed with GBS.
Doctors believe Spaulding’s immune system, which was fighting Lyme Disease, was overstimulated by the COVID vaccine causing it to attack the myelin — the protective insulation that surrounds nerves, including those in the brain and spinal cord.
Treatment was immediate and successful in arresting the progression of the disease, but not before Spaulding was almost completely paralyzed.
After he was stabilized, Spaulding was sent to a rehabilitation hospital. As of June 29, he was back in the hospital for an infection and blood clots. He lost almost all progress he made during his initial round of rehabilitation.
According to his GoFundMe, Spaulding is still unable to walk and muscle weakness and pain are his constant companions. He is fighting to regain the mobility and feeling he lost due to the GBS brought on by the COVID vaccine.
On May 25, Freddy [no last name provided], a self-employed roof contractor with two children, suffered an immediate and severe reaction to Moderna’s COVID vaccine. Within 15 minutes of vaccination, he lost feeling in the left side of his body, developed a rash and experienced swelling in his hands and feet. He was treated on site by paramedics and sent home.
The next night Freddy began experiencing heart palpitations and atrial fibrillation, and stopped breathing. He was transferred to the hospital for heart monitoring.
On June 22, Freddy was taken by ambulance to the hospital again after he stopped breathing, experienced massive tremors in his leg and was unable to move.
According to Freddy’s GoFundMe page, he has been dismissed or ignored by healthcare providers who don’t associate his newly acquired conditions with Moderna’s vaccine. Freddy experiences constant uncontrollable spasms and tremors, migraines, tinnitus, fatigue, dizziness, neurological episodes resembling seizures or strokes, brain fog and pain.
Obtaining federal compensation for COVID vaccine injuries almost impossible
People facing huge medical bills after being injured by COVID vaccines have few options, beyond what their own health insurance covers. That’s because under federal law, vaccine makers are shielded from liability.
In 2005, Congress passed the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP), which authorizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue a declaration providing immunity from tort liability for claims of loss caused by medical countermeasures (e.g., vaccines, drugs, products) against diseases or other threats of public health emergencies.
On Feb. 4, 2020, HHS invoked the PREP Act when it declared COVID-19 to be a public health emergency. On Jan. 21, HHS amended the act, extending the liability shield to include additional categories of qualified persons authorized to prescribe, dispense and administer COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In exchange for immunity for vaccine makers, under the PREP Act, the federal government pledged compensation for adverse reactions to COVID treatments and vaccines through a program called the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP), run by HHS.
As The Defender reported July 1, as of June 1, CICP reported 869 pending cases but offered no further information.
The CICP website outlines the parameters of the program, which provides compensation for medical expenses, lost employment income and survivor death benefits as “the payer of last resort,” covering only what remains unpaid or unpayable by other third parties, such as health insurance.
Under the CICP program, attorney fees are not covered. There is no court, judge or right to appeal.
Since the CICP program’s inception in 2010, only 29 claims have been paid, with an average payout of around $200,000. The other 452 claims (91.4%) were denied. Ten claims won approval but were deemed ineligible for compensation.
Only about 8% of people who applied to the CICP with vaccine injuries in the past received payouts, and there are no protections from the U.S. legal system.
As Renée Gentry, director of the Vaccine Injury Litigation Clinic at the George Washington University Law School, puts it, COVID vaccine claimants have two rights: “You have the right to file,” she said. “And you have the right to lose.”
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