Supreme Court Immunizes Vaccine Makers Against Lawsuits
By Neil Z. Miller
In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court voted to protect pharmaceutical companies from liability when their vaccines cause debilitating injuries and death. The high court majority considers vaccines “unavoidably unsafe” and was worried about drug makers being sued and obligated to compensate their vaccine victims. Instead of opting to protect children, the Supreme Court chose to safeguard the financial interests of the multi-billion dollar vaccine industry.
The ruling was a defeat for Hannah Bruesewitz, who suffered from a severe brain injury, developmental delays, and a lifelong seizure disorder after receiving a mandated DPT vaccine. She was denied compensation by the U.S. Court of Claims, which administers the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Established by Congress in 1986, this program was designed as a non-adversarial way for vaccine victims to be compensated for their injuries caused by compulsory vaccinations. However, during the past several years, this “non-adversarial” program has degenerated into a hostile and expensive legal battle for parents seeking restitution for their losses; nearly 4 out of every 5 cases are rejected.
After being rejected by the U.S. Court of Claims (following several years of adversarial litigation), Hannah’s attorneys sued in civil court, providing evidence that the DPT vaccine manufacturer, Wyeth-Lederle, had the technology to produce a less reactive, purified pertussis vaccine but declined to do so. However, the Supreme Court has now declared that justice cannot be sought in American courtrooms.
According to Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center, “This is a sad day for all Americans forced by law to use dozens of doses of vaccines or be barred from school or health insurance or employment. The only leverage left to American consumers to ensure that vaccines with the fewest health risks are produced is to oppose vaccine mandates and work to defend vaccine exemptions in all public health laws.”
According to vaccine safety advocate Louise Kuo Habakus of the Center for Personal Rights, “The Court is telling parents that they’re on their own. Parents know that 4 out of 5 cases of vaccine injury do not get compensation in the misnamed Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The Supreme Court has slammed the courthouse doors shut.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a compelling dissent, in which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined, arguing that the Supreme Court majority appears more concerned about protecting the vaccine industry than about the safety of our children: “The Court imposes its own bare policy preference over the considered judgment of Congress…misconstrues the Act’s legislative history, and disturbs the careful balance Congress struck between compensating vaccine-injured children and stabilizing the childhood vaccine market.”
Justice Sotomayor had more to say: “The majority’s decision leaves a regulatory vacuum in which no one - neither the FDA nor any other federal agency, nor state and federal juries - ensures that vaccine manufacturers adequately take account of scientific and technological advancements…. The vaccine market will often have little or no incentive to improve the designs of vaccines that are already generating significant profit margins. Nothing in the…legislative history remotely suggests that Congress intended that result.”