Brad Fitzpatrick

Vaccines have eradicated some killer diseases and protected against others. But they face eradication themselves – by litigation. As the United States rushes to defend itself against bioterrorism by developing vaccines against biological agents, Congress must pass legislation to ensure that vaccines themselves do not become extinct.

All vaccines carry risks, including side effects such as encephalitis. For example, severe allergic reactions, such as breathing problems and shock, can occur in less than one in a million doses of diphtheria, tetanus pertussis vaccine.1 Almost all US children enjoy the health benefit from immunization, but a tiny proportion, despite efforts to make the vaccine safe, have severe side effects. Before Congress acted in 1986, these children often had no financial recourse2 for their medical and rehabilitative needs other the tort system.

The result was a dwindling supply of vaccines and an increased cost of inoculations. Case in...

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