Supreme Court Ruling Abandons Vaccine-Injured Children, Threatens Vaccine Safety

Feb 23, 2011, 11:15 ET from National Autism Association

Decision in Bruesewitz case leaves families with no hope of obtaining compensation from drug makers for vaccine injuries

NIXA, Mo., Feb. 23, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --The National Autism Association (NAA) joins parents nationwide in calling yesterday's Supreme Court decision in the Bruesewitz case a violation of civil rights. The outcome also removes any remaining incentive for vaccine manufacturers to make their product as safe as possible. The Bruesewitz family sought compensation for their daughter Hannah who developed a lifelong seizure disorder following a DTP vaccine she received as an infant in 1992.  The vaccine was manufactured by Lederle, now owned by Wyeth.  


The Bruesewitz family had initially filed a complaint in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program as required by law, but the claim was denied following years of litigation. The family has now been told by the Supreme Court that they do not have the right to sue the vaccine manufacturer to receive justice or compensation for the health care and services Hannah will need for the rest of her life.

"This ruling is a crushing blow not only to families struggling to provide care for their vaccine-injured children, but also to the rights of every US citizen," said parent and NAA board chair Lori McIlwain. "No other industry enjoys such complete protection from liability for harm caused to people injured by their products."

The right to sue drug companies directly for injuries caused by vaccines was first hindered in 1986 when the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) took effect for children born after October 1988.  This program was originally designed to provide quick, non-adversarial compensation for care to those suffering injuries from mandated vaccines, while giving claimants the opportunity to opt out into civil court. Yet the program has since only served to provide unprecedented protection to vaccine makers.  Unencumbered by litigation, drug companies now had practically unfettered influence upon government vaccine program decision-makers, ensuring their vaccines were given to every child in America.

Through the years, problems with the NVICP became apparent, with many critics now believing it is a completely broken system that allows no discovery phase, and evidence pertinent to cases is made inaccessible.  Petitioners were required to file first through the NVICP before seeking compensation directly from drug companies for vaccine injuries. Yesterday's decision has taken away the second option altogether, giving complete immunity to the entire vaccine industry.

"For years now, vaccine makers have had very little incentive to ensure their products were as safe as possible," said Ms. McIlwain.  "With yesterday's decision, the Supreme Court has rendered vaccine makers completely untouchable:  they will not be held accountable for debilitating injury and death from use of their vaccines.  If poorly-made tires cause injuries and deaths to consumers, victims have a right to obtain compensation from the manufacturer.  But there are no consequences for drug companies, no matter how unsafe their vaccines are or how many injuries and deaths they cause."

While thousands of families are expressing outrage at the federal government's broken promise of medical care following a vaccine injury, many believe that the Supreme Court decision will actually hurt the vaccine program in the long run. "Americans now know that if they become injured by a vaccine, they are completely on their own with no way to receive compensation for care from vaccine makers," said Ms. McIlwain.

NAA joins advocacy organizations throughout the country in asking Congress for investigation and action to amend the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act to keep its original promise:  that federal Vaccine Court was an additional non-adversarial, generous, and effective no-fault remedy—and not a substitute for traditional tort remedies—and to restore the fundamental civil right under American law for petitioners to sue industry in civil court if dissatisfied by the actions of the Vaccine Court.

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Rita Shreffler, NAA (Nixa, MO) 417-818-9030

Wendy Fournier, NAA (Portsmouth, RI) 401-835-5828

SOURCE National Autism Association