The Virginia Worker’s Compensation Commission has previously held that an employee may recover Workers’ Compensation for a work-related vaccine injury if they can prove that the vaccination arose out of and in the course of employment, and resulted in an “obvious sudden mechanical or structural change in the body.” A vaccine injury will be considered work-related if required by the employer. Until recently, the issue of vaccine injury only impacted a handful of employers, such health care providers or military contractors. However, with the growing availability of the COVID vaccine, employers in many fields are now implementing or at least considering mandatory vaccine policies. While vaccine injuries are historically extremely rare, in the unlikely event an employee experiences an obvious and sudden vaccine injury, Worker’s Compensation benefits will likely be available to them.
If the vaccine injury does qualify the employee for Workers’ Compensation, medical expenses are payable on day one but wage replacement is only available after 7 days of missed work. If the employee ends up being out of work for more than 21 days, they can then reach back to obtain coverage for the first 7 days of wages. The 7-day elimination period, plus the requirement that the vaccine result in serious injury, means that an employee who merely feels ill for a few days after receiving a COVID vaccine (typically, after the second dose) will not typically have a claim for either medical expenses or wages under Worker’s Compensation. On the other hand, in the rare case that an employee experiences a lasting and serious reaction, Worker’s Compensation benefits will provide a much-needed safety net. Making employees aware of this protection will hopefully reduce vaccine reluctance by allaying injury concerns.