Supreme court affirms 1986 Vaccine Act

22 Feb

The US Supreme Court has ruled 6-2 that pharmaceutical companies cannot be sued for a vaccine-related injury or death as long as the vaccine was properly prepared and came with directions and warnings. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. Associate Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the case, known as Brueswitz v. Wyeth. From the Wall Street Journal:

The court ruled against parents who claimed their daughter suffers from a seizure disorder as the result of a Wyeth vaccination she received as an infant in 1992. The vaccine was discontinued in 1998.

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 was enacted to reduce the potential financial liability of vaccine makers while ensuring supply. It created a no-fault arbitration process for injury claims, known as the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

“Childhood vaccines are among the greatest medical breakthroughs of the last century,” said O. Marion Burton, MD, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP was one of 22 health organizations which urged the Court to confirm that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Act of 1986 (“Vaccine Act”) preempted design defect claims against vaccine manufacturers. “Today’s Supreme Court decision protects children by strengthening our national immunization system and ensuring that vaccines will continue to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in this country.”

The case turned on the interpretation of this paragraph in the 1986 Vaccine Act legislation:

“No vaccine manufacturer shall be liable in a civil action for damages arising from a vaccine-related injury or death associated with the administration of a vaccine after October 1, 1988, if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings.”

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said:

The “even though” clause clarifies the word that precedes it. It delineates the preventative measures that a vaccine manufacturer must have taken for a side-effect to be considered “unavoidable” under the statute. Provided that there was proper manufacture and warning, any remaining side effects, including those resulting from design defects, are deemed to have been unavoidable. State-law design-defect claims are therefore preempted.

2 Responses to “Supreme court affirms 1986 Vaccine Act”

  1. AWOL February 22, 2011 at 21:41 #

    A bit slow of the mark

    The UK did this years ago…

    With respect to the indemnity offered by the DoH to UK manufacturers, Professor Salisbury has both denied and acknowledged its existence. A series of emails from Professor Salisbury have been brought to our attention:


  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - Supreme court affirms 1986 Vaccine Act « Left Brain/Right Brain -- - February 22, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kev, Liz Ditz, Shannon Rosa, Alltop Autism, Robert Goldberg and others. Robert Goldberg said: RT @lizditz: US Supreme Court affirms 1986 Vaccine Act (LeftBrainRightBrain) This is a win for public health. #vaxfax […]

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