Health Law

Doc: Vaccine Claims Risk Child Health

Litigation over some 4,800 autistic children allegedly injured as a result of being vaccinated could mean the end of much-needed programs to protect millions from potentially fatal diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.

Even though the link between childhood vaccination and at least many of the injuries claimed, in recent years, to result from it is dubious at best, big bucks damages awards in several federal cases led to many vaccine manufacturers getting out of the business and resultant shortages, writes Paul A. Offit, a physician, in an opinion article in the Boston Globe.

A 1986 federal statute largely resolved the situation, by restricting vaccine claims to a specialized federal court. It imposed scientific standards of proof and provided fair compensation in actual cases of vaccine injury. But the sheer number of autism plaintiffs currently seeking compensation there is a daunting prospect for manufacturers, even if their litigation is unsuccessful, says Offit, who is chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine. “[M]assive litigation could force companies to leave the vaccine business, threatening the future of one of medicine’s greatest achievements.”

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