Pediatricians Fight Georgia Ruling on Vaccine Liability

April 21, 2009

Pediatricians and other medical professionals are trying to block a Georgia Supreme Court ruling they fear could encourage lawsuits and harm production of vaccines.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which represents 60,000 pediatricians, along with several other health organizations, recently filed an amici curiae (friends of the court) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking that it overturn a recent decision by the Georgia Supreme Court that would allow cases alleging injury from childhood vaccines to be decided by state juries.

The doctors claim the October ruling by the Georgia court threatens the no-fault system approved by Congress when it enacted the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Act of 1986.

The federal act was intended to protect the small number of children injured by vaccines and to safeguard the nation’s vaccine supply, according to AAP. Leading up to passage of the legislation, vaccine-related lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers had spiked, and the backers of the federal act feared that rising litigation threatened to halt of vaccines.

The recent Georgia Supreme Court ruling in American Home Products Corp. v. Ferrari would reverse the intentions set forth in the 1986 act, argued AAP.

“If this decision is allowed to stand, it could lead to the very same crisis that Congress sought to prevent in passing the original legislation. There is a genuine threat to our nation’s public health if manufacturers abandon or consider abandoning the production of vaccines. This decision would set our country back decades, and have deadly consequences for our children,” said Stephan E. Lawton, co-author of the amicus brief.

Other organizations that have joined the AAP in the brief include: American Academy of Family Physicians, AAP Section on Infectious Diseases, American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, Every Child By Two, Immunization Action Coalition, Infectious Disease Society of America, Pediatric Infectious Disease Society, and the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

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