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Sunday, 4 December 2016

US “Vaccine Court” Has Paid over Three Billion Dollars to Vaccine-Injured Families

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Since 1988, the US government has paid $3.2 billion to 4,150 individuals and families for injuries and deaths attributed to shots for flu, diphtheria, whooping cough, and other conditions. Though vaccines “remain one of the greatest success stories in public health,” Tracy Seipel reported, “for some Americans, rare side effects of inoculations have led to hardship, serious injury, and even death.”

As Anders Kelto reported on NPR’s All Things Considered, high-profile lawsuits against drug companies in the 1980s successfully charged that children immunized with the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine experienced adverse reactions, including seizures and brain damage, leading to at least two court settlements worth millions of dollars. In response, drug companies threatened to stop producing vaccines for the US market because litigation risks were too great unless the government provided them with “no-fault” protection. NPR quoted Anna Kirkland, a professor of women’s studies and political science at the University of Michigan: “There was a real fear that some of our childhood vaccines would no longer be available.”

In 1986, that fear led Congress to establish the little-known Office of Special Masters of the US Court of Federal Claims (known informally as the vaccine court) and the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. NPR reported that the court administers a “no-fault compensation program that serves as an alternative to the traditional U.S. tort system.” As Kirkland explained, the vaccine court served to “shield the vaccine makers from liability.” It also created a fund to compensate injured vaccine recipients, through a 75-cent surcharge on every vaccine dose.

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