The debate over vaccine safety is headed to the US Supreme Court, which is hearing arguments today on a case that would have huge implications for vaccine makers and vaccine safety lawsuits. The New York Times
is reporting that the controversy over vaccines and autism might be challenged publicly depending on the outcome of this case.
It seems that almost 25 years ago, Congress made a law that served to protect vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits if there was an issue of safety. The motivation for such a decision was to keep manufactures from “undue litigation” in their quest for health benefits. In making this law it created a sort of “alternative court” called “vaccine court.” That’s right, cases alleging vaccine damage don’t tend to go through regular courts. According to the Times story:
Under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, such claims typically proceed through an alternative legal system known as “vaccine court.” Under that system, a person is compensated if their injury is among those officially recognized as caused by a vaccine. That person, or their parents, can choose to reject that award and sue the vaccine’s manufacturer, but they then face severe legal hurdles created by law to deter such actions.
The story reports that “federal data shows that $154 million was paid in fiscal 2010 to 154 claimants involved in vaccine court proceedings. That figure was significantly higher than in preceding years and reflected several unusually high awards, officials involved in the program said…. A compensation fund is financed by an excise tax on vaccinations.”