U.S. Supreme Court holds vaccine makers immune from product design lawsuits
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-2 to grant immunity to vaccine makers. The ruling was in the case of Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, and arose out of Hannah Bruesewitz' parents' claim that she suffered a permanent brain injury after being administered a standard diptheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine. Hannah's parents claimed that Wyeth negligently designed the vaccine, but the Court held it didn't matter: the Justices concluded that a Congressional bill intended to provide limited compensation to some patients who suffer side effects impliedly created immunity for the manufacturers--even though the bill does not say that.
The real foundation for this ruling is a combination of issues: the hysteria caused by bogus claims--since discredited--of United Kingdom research suggesting that there was a tie between agents such as thiomersal in childhood innoculations and the development of autism; and the fact that the production of vaccines is not highly lucrative compared with other pharmaceuticals, leading to relative shortages in production.