Here some background and the basic facts of the case: In the last few decades there has been an increased belief that there is a link between vaccines and illness, especially autism (you can read more of my views on this in a previous post). Out of this came a well founded fear that drug companies would no longer be willing to develop or manufacture childhood vaccines. In 1986 Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA). Section 22(b)(1) states this:
[n]o 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
This act does not prevent anyone from suing a drug company if they did something wrong, but it did say you can’t sue if they did everything right and the person had a bad outcome.
Hannah Bruesewitz received the DPT (diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus) vaccine and later developed seizures. Her parents sued Wyeth claiming the vaccine caused this. Because they could not prove that Wyeth did anything wrong (or for that matter that there was a link between the vaccine and her seizures) the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Wyeth.
This puts me in a strange place as I almost never side with these large drug companies, and I virtually never side with Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion.
Our nation is currently full of people who believe that the free market can take care of our needs and government shouldn’t interfere. But I find that this was our government doing well what it should be doing. The free market would have made it unprofitable (and therefore impossible) to develop and manufacture vaccines that have become essential to childhood health. Congress passed, the President signed, and the Supreme Court affirmed this legislation.
Way to go.