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COVID Vaccine: Some Claim They Were Injured By Shots, But Experts Say There Is No Legal Recourse

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It was the shot seen around the world. Since the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered on Dec. 14, about 3.5 million people in New York and New Jersey have received their first dose.

But as CBS2's Maurice Dubois reported Monday, not everyone is celebrating this life-affirming milestone.

"I couldn't move my arm. I could only move it about 10 degrees, lifting my arm, before excruciating pain, like a knife going through my shoulder," health care worker Sung Cho said of his first vaccine shot.

Psychologist Gaylen Garcia also got the shot.

"This motion, just going back like this, just hurts," Garcia said.

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Now, both claim they have a rare condition that occurs when a vaccine is given improperly. It's called SIRVA: shoulder injury related to vaccine administration.

"I can't lift my kids up anymore. I can't play basketball. I can't play with them anymore. I thought my life was over," Cho said.


SIRVA occurs when the vaccine is mistakenly injected into the bursa space below the deltoid muscle in your arm, instead of the muscle, itself. Doctors say the pain can last anywhere from days to weeks to months.

"My arm goes numb. I wake up with tingling hands," Garcia said.

"I can't go higher than that right there," Cho added.

In Cho's case, he said the COVID vaccine was given by a pharmacy student who he​ claims made a mistake.

"I think she's innocent to it. I just think that she didn't get proper training. I find that very infuriating," Cho said.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Office put out the call for all medical professionals to get trained to vaccinate, including pharmacists, and midwives, who are not certified to administer immunizations.

"You have people who, you know, by virtue of many reasons are not really, you know, at the top of their game, are not really experienced enough. That certainly creates a potential for danger," medical malpractice attorney Anthony Macri said.

Macri added if something were to go wrong, a patient doesn't even have any legal recourse.

"Legislation was passed that basically eliminates or greatly restricts people's right to sue on anything related to the vaccine, including, even if it's injected and properly," Macri said.

It's part of the Health and Human Services Prep Act relating to COVID and health care professionals, which states, "A covered person shall be immune from suit and liability under federal and state law."


But Dr. Adam Berman, an emergency room physician at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, says training to administer vaccines is basic and straightforward.

"The actual occurrence of injuries or other problems related to getting a vaccine is very low," Berman said.

And Berman even offered CBS2 a demonstration.

"Whoever's giving the vaccine is going to want to squeeze the arm to make sure that you're getting the vaccine into the actual deltoid muscle. And then, once the syringe with the medication is in it, it should be given perpendicularly to the skin, and then injected slowly. And then you're done," Berman said.

Most important, he said, "There are going to be inherent risks with getting the vaccine, just local effects, but I still think that, overall, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh any possible issues that people might have related to getting the vaccine."

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