Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could change the way vaccine makers are protected against law suits. The specific case is of an 18-year-old Pennsylvania girl whose parents claim that their daughter suffered seizures and developmental delays after her third routine dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) in infancy.
The precedent in these cases is for a no-fault program, under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, to compensate anyone who is legitimately harmed by a vaccine. But here the parents decided to sue Wyeth, saying that the manufacturer knowingly used an unsafe formula for the shot, and arguing that they shouldn’t be protected. What did the justices have to say?
According to the Wall Street Journal, the court appears divided. On the one hand, Sonia Sotomayor said she doubted that vaccine makers would have incentive to make safe vaccines if they’re protected from lawsuits.
On the other hand, public health officials warn that widespread vaccination keeps the rate of infectious disease at bay. If manufacturers routinely get sued, the production and distribution of safe vaccines is threatened and the public is at much higher risk. Cases of genuine harm from vaccine side-effects are relatively rare, and the fund set up in the 80’s compensates in these instances.
What do you think?
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