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AAP Submits Amicus Brief to U.S. Supreme Court in Support of Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

7/30/2010

Washington, DC—The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which represents 60,000 pediatricians, today joined 21 partnering health organizations to file an amici curiae (friends of the court) brief in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, Inc. (No. 09-152, S. Ct.), a case currently pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. In the brief, the AAP and its partners urge the Court to protect the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program established in the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Act of 1986 (“Vaccine Act”) by confirming that the law preempts design default claims against vaccine manufacturers.

The amici curiae brief is available here.

Leading up to passage of the Vaccine Act in the 1980s, injury compensation lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers had risen so steeply that the production of life-saving vaccines was in jeopardy. Congress responded by passing the Vaccine Act, which established a no-fault alternative Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) intended to compensate the families of children who suffer from potential adverse reactions from vaccines and to safeguard the nation’s vaccine supply.

In filing the brief, the AAP strongly stands by the current no-fault system established under the Vaccine Act, and urges the U.S. Supreme Court to maintain this position, which was also upheld in a recent ruling of Bruesewitz by the Third Circuit Court.

“The public health benefits of childhood vaccines cannot be overstated. As we have recently experienced with new and potentially deadly outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles and pertussis, a national vaccine shortage could pose an insurmountable risk to our children's health," says AAP President Judith S. Palfrey, MD, FAAP. “The AAP urges the Supreme Court to recognize that the threat of disease far outweighs the risks of vaccination.”

The Academy and its partners recommend that the U.S. Supreme Court preserve the authority of the Vaccine Court set up through the VICP as the first entry point for families seeking compensation for injuries caused by childhood vaccines. By providing an avenue for needed compensation claims separate from the traditional litigation process, the Vaccine Court has prevented manufacturers from abandoning the vaccine market, ensuring a stable supply of vaccines to inoculate against many childhood diseases. The Vaccine Court has issued more than 2,400 awards to families totaling over $1.8 billion since 1989.

If the Supreme Court holds that state courts may decide on a case-by-case basis whether a particular vaccine can be made safer, it could threaten “a resurgence of the very problems which led to instability in the vaccine market and which caused Congress to intervene through the passage of the Vaccine Act in the first place,” wrote counsel of record Lorane Hebert, of Hogan Lovells US LLP. “Because of vaccines, a number of debilitating and life-threatening infectious diseases have been eliminated or virtually eliminated in this country, thereby not only enhancing the length and quality of life of countless children, but also providing significant savings in direct and indirect costs.”

Other public health organizations joining the AAP in the brief include: the American Academy of Family Physicians; the AAP Section on Infectious Diseases; American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians; American College of Preventive Medicine; American Medical Association; American Public Health Association; Association of State and Territorial Healthcare Officials; Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research at Texas Children's Hospital; Every Child By Two; Immunization Action Coalition; Infectious Diseases Society of America; March of Dimes Foundation; Meningitis Angels; National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners; National Foundation for Infectious Diseases; National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition; National Meningitis Association; Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases; Pediatric Infectious Disease Society; Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine; and the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.