Huddersfield man, 39, awarded vaccine injury compensation, for injury caused by contracting poliomyelitis from polio vaccine when he was 6 months old

Posted on 29th May 2020

Mr Karl Turrell was 6 months old when, in 1980, he received his routine first set of three doses of baby vaccines (Diptheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio).

At that time a live polio vaccine was used. The live polio vaccine virus was weakened so that it was supposed not to infect the recipient of the vaccine. However it was recognised that such an infection did very rarely happen, but only about 3 times per million doses. Since that time the live polio vaccine has been withdrawn from use and current polio vaccines now solely contain inactivated antigens.

Karl was unlucky and the live polio vaccine virus got into his system, from the last set of the routine baby vaccines he had and he contracted poliomyelitis.

The day after his last polio vaccination Karl was limp and sleepy. He was taken the GP and prescribed antibiotics. The initial acute illness was relatively mild and went initially undiagnosed. But subsequently the lasting impact of his illness was clear. He struggled to learn to walk and even at 2 years of age if he tried to pull himself to his feet, his legs would buckle and he would fall to the floor. He was referred to hospital for investigation when it was noted that his legs were weak and his spine curved. It was noted that his legs were of uneven length. He was given a heel raise and surgical boots. By the age of 11, he underwent extensive reconstructive leg surgery to break and elongate his left leg by a frame to stretch it. He spent time in a wheelchair and then on crutches recovering from this. He continued to limp and it was only then after many years that his treating doctors realised that the cause of all of his weaknesses was polio infection starting after his polio vaccination at 6 months of age.

As Karl got older he developed post-polio syndrome which is a common late onset effect of polio infection. He suffered persistent fatigue, muscle weakness and muscle wastage, and a phobia of medical treatment. In adult life he was however able to work as a delivery driver with a splint to support his leg. He now has two teen-age children.

In the 1990s his parents applied for compensation for him under the Vaccine Damage Payment Act 1979 (the UK statutory vaccine injury scheme). This Act provides a single lump sum award of compensation if the applicant can show they are severely disabled by a vaccine. It was accepted that Karl had suffered injury as a result of his polio vaccination, but compensation was refused on the basis his disablement was not ‘severe’. No appeal was made against the refusal at that time.

Then in 2017, Peter Todd of Hodge Jones & Allen successfully acted for a child Claimant in a case in the Court of Appeal, John v DWP. In that case the court held that the DWP were wrong in their interpretation of the legislation and they should take into account all the adverse effects of vaccination including any future aspects of the disablement. As a result of that decision the DWP reviewed all the cases where they had refused an award on the grounds the disablement was insufficiently severe and they wrote to those unsuccessful applicants, including Karl, to notify them they may want to consider making an application for review of the DWP’s earlier decision.

Karl then contacted Peter Todd and Peter agreed to pursue an appeal for Karl to the First Tier Tribunal, assisted by his colleague Rhea Javed. Extensive further lay and expert evidence was obtained. An appeal was lodged. On receipt of the appeal and the further evidence, the DWP reviewed the case and agreed not to contest the appeal, accepting that Karl’s vaccine injury did indeed amount to severe disablement. The Tribunal allowed Karl’s appeal and he received the statutory vaccine compensation payment of about £100k.

Karl said “I was grateful for Peter’s help in securing the vaccine compensation payment. Poliomyelitis as a child has had a significant effect on my entire life and I was pleased to recover some recognition and support for the difficulties I have faced”

Karl’s solicitor Peter Todd said “I am pleased Karl consulted me about his case, and that I was able to help him secure compensation. He deserves the support for the difficulties he has faced. There was almost 40 years between the vaccination and the appeal, so it was good to succeed with this case, after all that time”

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