Two two-minute walks from the front door of the White House, on the eastern edge of leaf Lafayette Square, Howard T. Markey National Courts Building, a 9-story red brick structure with dark, narrow windows. Inside, federal judges supervise a combination of cases and appeals related to patent disputes, veteran benefits, oil spills, private claims against the government, and much more.
Eight of those judges belong to the Office of Special Masters, a small unit within the Federal Court claims much more. For more than twenty years, this legal intent – including neuroscience, rheumatology and paediatrics – has been one of the most controversial cornerstones of the legal system to implement a rigorous understanding of medical science.
This is the vaccine court, whose staff consider cases that individuals who require injured vaccines or their children. The tribunal administers the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which was established by the Congress in 1
Every year, special masters of the court, appointed by the president and approved by the US Senate, receive about 500 petitions for monetary damages. Like a legal procedure, every petition from a person who says they are injured by a prick in the hand or is stolen in the thigh is a legal accused. For each one, the special masters must answer a question that is medically complicated, but legally straightforward: Was the complainant injured by a vaccine?
In 2016, the court awarded a vaccine of $ 230 million to patients who said they had been wronged by vaccines, and over $ 22 million was paid in solicitor's fees. with them. (These fees are paid by the courts even when the petitioner loses their case – a significant departure from the standard practice that experts believe is unique to the vaccine court.) The system has been in existence for over thirty years for one purpose, and very important, serve: keeping rescue vaccines on the market.
"It is a faultless compensation program designed to encourage vaccination, to encourage vaccine manufacturers to continue to vaccinate, and to compensate the small but significant number of people injured by vaccine." The former head of the court, the Special Master Denise Vowell, explained in a video in 2015.
This does not mean that vaccines are basically dangerous. More than 80% of the claims received by the court are settled, without concluding that any injury has resulted from a vaccine. But the court, and the history behind her, show complex realities of modern medicine – and the consequences, both positive and negative, of her efforts to eradicate disease.
An expensive litigation version of the basic work for the vaccine court
The origins of the vaccine court can be traced until the 1970s, when parents understand it began filing disputes against doctors and manufacturers of vaccines regarding allegations that risks for children at vaccines for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT shots). Kevin Toner's parents were the first of the first matches to be successful, having been vaccinated in Idaho in 1979.
"Kevin Toner, who was a three-month old baby then, was made. a vaccination with Tri-Residents "- a Since the DPT vaccine was discontinued in the United States -" she suffered an uncommon condition of the spinal called transverse myelitis, which is not her cause, "state documents. "As a result of the worry, Kevin is permanently paralyzed from the waist."
The family lawyer, Kenneth Pedersen, remembers as a young lawyer in the early 30s at the time, the case succeeded in launching his own legal career. "The argument was that the vaccine could be safer," he told Business Insider. "It was very sad, taking a huge drug company. We had to prove it was injured."
A jury of six Idahoans donated $ 1.3 million to the Toners against the vaccine manufacturer Lederle Laboratories. Toner later graduated from college and settled in Salt Lake City with his wife and children. He is currently working for a major bank.
A verdict of the toner came in national debate about DPT shots. Shortly before the family case went through the court system, a documentary called "Vaccine Roulette" was broadcast on the NBC, scareing parents around the country about the dangers of the vaccine.
NBC American Pediatrics Academy, saying "lack of balance of scientific facts" denied the documentary [caused] bad injury and irreversible harm to the health and welfare of children of the nation. "
Still, the number of DPT injured laws was separated, from one case in 1978 to 73 legal cases in 1984. The cases were also more expensive. As Dr. Alan Hinman noted in the 1986 section of JAMA. Pediatrics, "the average amount claimed against a suit from $ 10 million to $ 46.5 million."
Pedersen believes it would be much harder tort cases like science toner more science to start starting out "The kind of medical literature that turned on us," he said.
Vaccines are very safe, and the evidence continues to grow stronger
A comprehensive review of the safety of DPT shot, said. published in 1991, the hours of autism and other dangerous and chronic conditions such as attention deficit disorder or juvenile diabetes do not create a number of significant exceptions in which the study developed. children allergies or inflammation, and a different study documented a few cases where neurological damage was diagnosed by children after a pertussis shot was found. But such cases are very rare, and it is very difficult to prove that it was the shot of the person who was.
These anomalies are best understood in the wider context of vaccine safety. Most vaccines work as promised and have no serious or permanent side effects. As the 1991 paper put it, "near clean water, no single intervention had a major impact on reducing mortality from childhood diseases as the widespread introduction of vaccines."
However, the lack of vaccine in the 1970s and 80s led to a lack of vaccine throughout the country and threatened to close all DPT vaccines. Before long, doctors, public health experts and drug companies began lobbying to make the federal government do something about the increased costs of litigation.
Jonas Salk, who invented the first polio vaccine, was one of the experts who gave evidence before lawmakers. Before his vaccine was widely used in 1955, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis in the United States each year.
"The live polio virus vaccine is now generally used than more than two cases a year of paralysis-related vaccine," Salk said to law makers. "Such cases occur to about 6 to 10 cases per year." He urged the vaccinators to focus more on the polio virus that had been killed, which did not paralyze him.
"In the case of vaccine-related injuries, it is clear that it would be far more desirable to avoid them," Salk said. "Where compensation is required, it seems to me that the type of legislation you are proposing would be desirable."
Two years later, the House passed the Bartartan Youth Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. Mr Edward Kennedy subsequently returned his provisions in a larger health bill already moving through the upper room. . President Ronald Reagan signed the amended bill into law in November, despite his "mixed feelings" and "reservations" as to how the plan could compensate people who would not have to create any wrongdoing. on the side of the vaccine makers.
That made the job of defending lawyers as Pederson much easier. "They got rid of the cause of causality, and you didn't have to prove fault," he said. "Overall, I think a lot of people got compensation that they wouldn't have … Congress didn't let the court influence these kids."
Today, the special masters listen to complaints of alleged injuries from 15 of the most common childhood vaccines, plus the flu shot. "He accepts injured vaccine controversies and keeps them into legal practices that could result in jury injuries, which could pose a threat to vaccine production and availability," legal expert Anna Kirkland, author of "Vaccine Court: The Law and Politics Injury," he told Business Insider in email.
A vaccine court exists, in part, to address the fact that research and lawsuits translate at different speeds. "We know that the pace of science and publishing is often slower than the speed of litigation," Kirkland said. "Some of these claims could be a huge class action action that manufacturers could quit from the vaccines market."
Valid scientific studies have never shown a link between vaccines and autism. But the amount of data required by these studies takes a long time to collect and analyze. The most recent study rejected the vaccine-autism link, which was published by Annals of Internal Medicine in early March, based on the medical history of more than 650,000 children in Denmark collected over a 14-year period.
At the same time, bad actors can pursue scientific authority. The first peer-reviewed paper was a fraudulent study to illustrate a link between vaccines and autism, which was published by the medical journal The Lancet in 1998, and its primary author expressed the underlying data.
But The Lancet did not back until 2010 until the publication by journalist Brian Deer of prolonged exposure. In the twelve years in the meantime, the study launched vaccination rates diving in the US and the UK, and provided fertile land for vaccine-related theories of vaccines.
This dynamics extends occasionally to the vaccine court itself. Anti-vaccine groups have said that there are hazardous vaccines, and they offered $ 4 billion in court payments as proof of widespread harm – although the majority of the money was awarded in settlements that the court did not decide on the exact cause of the injury. the complainant. The relative vagueness of the court, and the implied difficulty of making payroll on the legal and medical jargon of its proceedings, is likely to contribute to the inaccurate view that the federal government considers vaccines to be a major risk.
News coverage of vaccines has not always helped. In 1994, the Atlanta Constitution, the New York Times, and the Associated Press reported that Miss America had gone deaf due to a bad reaction to a DPT shot. It took more than a week for the Times to correct the record, pointing out that Heather Whitestone's passage queen was deaf from meningitis, something (ironically) that we have a vaccine for now.
Drug companies could not make vaccines if they had to deal with bad weather themselves
Vaccines are not the most lucrative things that drug makers can do: estimates suggest that it can cost from $ 135 to $ $. Develop 500 million vaccines, and take anywhere from a month (in the case of an annual flu vaccine) for a decade to make a vaccine formula perfect. When it is complete, most of the vaccines are administered only once or twice, providing life-long protection from dissolved and fatal diseases at a typical price of around $ 30 per dose (uninsured). .
Vaccination cannot be fatal. It can also be expensive. One person got six years of authentication in Oregon tetanus recently when he cut himself off playing on a farm and forced him to air to the hospital. His final medical bill was almost $ 1 million. On the other hand, tetanus vaccines cost less than $ 30 (no insurance), and are around 100 years old.
Vaccines are about alerting our bodies by encouraging immune reactions with impaired and slaughtered versions of the diseases. they defend against them. But in very rare cases, people can develop allergic reactions or immune responses on dangerous vaccines. Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare but temporary disorder that encourages the immune system to attack the nervous system, making anything from mild paralysis life-threatening. In rare cases, influenza firing can increase the risk of developing a GBS, affecting the dangers of developing a 1 per 100,000 person.
One such case was Wilma Gundy's case from Colorado. She told the Conference that she was vaccinated for swine flu on November 26, 1976. "Three weeks later," she said in her testimony, "my legs, my legs, my hands, my hands and the left side began" of my craic and my tongue turning numb I felt as if Novocaine was put to me, but the ingenuity, I felt very exhausted and weak. ”
Until this month, the court decided five different cases Guillain- Barrel, all associated with the flu vaccine. One was dismissed for inadequate proof, and the other four received lump sum payments ranging from $ 150,150.58 to $ 255,829.99. The highest award the court never gives out is any kind of pain and suffering, including death, than $ 250,000, but this does not include lost costs and earnings, meaning that the court gave vaccines. highest total compensation ever $ 9.1 million.
The most common reason people go to the vaccine court: because someone refused them the wrong way
Most of the legitimate vaccine cases that the federal court considers are only related to very low vaccine risks. Most of them encourage people who have the wrong way with a needle. This court asks for a Vaccine-Related Hazard of Injury (SIRVA), which is half of all cases seen by the vaccine court.
More suspicious claims arise because of the fact that vaccines lead to autism – which is clear, false – or as a result of people injured by something other than an emerging vaccine to claim money. .
"Hard cases are to deal with them because you are dealing with people who are almost undoubtedly injured, the issue is the reason for that injury," Vowell said.
Recently, the court has begun to address some of the worst complaints. Take autism, for example. Last year, in a decision which rejected a petition relating to autism originally filed in 2002, Special Master Brian Corcoran argued that "it is no longer reasonable for Clare solicitors to bring such claims to them."  "This issue has almost fifteen years to resolve," explained Corcoran. "In that period, no non-Table claims that declare autism as a vaccine injection were successful. Unexpected and unexpected scientific research results in what is currently understood due to the lack of vaccine relations and autism are unlikely to occur. none of them will have a future. ”
Kirkland says the vaccine court continues to play a vital role: providing an additional layer of security for people and manufacturers of vaccine in an extremely guilty and expensive healthcare system.
"We make a slight reverse for people with disabilities and those without a safety net for injuries and health care costs," Kirkland said. She believes that the US would not need the vaccine court if the United States had a better health care system, because people with disabilities and injuries would receive the care they needed, regardless of what caused injuries in the first place.
"Court payments for vaccines are truly generosity," our system is very sharp and cruel. "