Last week, the Supreme Court voted 6-2 to uphold the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (NCVIA). The NCVIA requires that individuals claiming vaccine-related injuries file their cases through a federal vaccine court (the so-called “Vaccine Program”). The Vaccine Program is a no-fault compensation system, which means that if a person feels that a vaccination resulted in injury or death, they can apply to the federal government for monetary reparations. They cannot file a lawsuit against the drug company responsible for the vaccination and typical routes of civil litigation are not available to them. The NCVIA also protects drug companies from some vaccination-related lawsuits.
Of course, like anything, the Vaccine Program is not perfect. The case that came before the Supreme Court was based on a parental claim that after being administered a specific vaccination, a healthy baby girl was afflicted by seizures and other side effects. The lawsuit claims that she will need care for the rest of her life as a result of the vaccination. The Vaccine Program denied monetary compensation for the parents’ claim. The drug company, for the record, also refutes their claim that their daughter’s health problems are related to the vaccine.
The drug company also leveraged an interesting point: if these parents won their case, it could feasibly open the floodgates at the state level to a massive number of vaccination-related lawsuits against the vaccine makers. Naturally, that could cause significant supply problems for childhood vaccines.
I’ll be honest: most vaccine news flutters right past me, but this one caught my eye because, well, I agree with the ruling. I can’t contribute much to the debate about whether it is better to vaccinate or not and I can’t contribute much to the discussion about what the science says about potential side effects, but I can weigh in on this. I agree with the new ruling because I feel that it is wrong for us to allow the supply of childhood vaccines to be threatened by civil litigation.
What do you think? Should parents be able to sue vaccine makers directly?