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I-Team: Are Vaccines Causing Shoulder Injuries?

BOSTON (CBS) - Flu shots save lives. But the I-Team discovered that the vaccine also comes with a potential risk that few people know about; and the results can mean months or years of debilitating pain.

Raul DeJesus got his flu shot a year-and-a-half ago. He now has nerve damage in his left arm and has very limited motion.

The pain is so debilitating he takes powerful medications like a fentanyl patch, oxycodone and hydrocodone.

"That's just some of them; the list goes on and on," he said.

Debby Russo needed surgery to fix damage to her shoulder after her flu shot.

"It was a lot of pain," she said.

According to Lahey Medical Center infectious disease specialist Dr.  Robert Duncan, this kind of injury is not common but it can happen.

It is usually the result of placing the shot too high in the arm.

"It goes right into the joint space instead of the muscle belly," he said.

Shoulder injuries have recently been recognized by the federal government's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Sometimes referred to as "vaccine court," it awards cash damages to people who are hurt by vaccines.

Shoulder injury is referred to as SIRVA or "shoulder injury related to vaccine administration."

Attorney Paul Brazil has represented dozens of clients with shoulder problems who have received cash awards.

"Most cases fall somewhere in the $20,000 to $150,000 range," he said.

While any injectable vaccine can cause this damage, Brazil says most of his cases involved the flu shot.

"In my personal experience, it seems that a lot of vaccine petitioners get the vaccine at a pharmacy," he said.

Debby got her shot from a pharmacy and was awarded $108,000.

"I tell everyone. Do not get a shot of any kind at a pharmacy," she said.

The Journal of the American Pharmacists Association recently published an article outlining this danger and offering tips to pharmacists on the proper procedure for giving a flu shot, including the ideal spot for an injection.

According to Brazil, this kind of education is critical.

"I think it's a lack of awareness," he said.

"I think if people know about SIRVA, if it was publicized more, then people administering vaccines might be more careful."

Raul wished that was the case at the health care clinic where he got his shot.  His case is still pending.

"This has affected every single aspect of my life," he said. "Not to be able to do the things that I was able to do because of a simple flu shot."

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