The Trouble with Vaccines

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Do vaccines cause illnesses?  I thought this was a uniquely American problem, but a recent court decision in Europe has challenged my belief.  In June, the European Union Court of Justice ruled against vaccine maker Sanofi Pasteur, in a suit challenging that a hepatitis B immunization could have led to a multiple sclerosis diagnosis a year later.[1]  NBC News’s sensational headline speaks volumes about this decision:  “EU Court Says Vaccines can be Blamed for Illnesses Without Proof.”[2]

This post is written by Associate Editor Russell Gribbell. Opinions and views expressed herein are those of the writer alone.

The Court of Justice obviously did not use such wording; instead it said a vaccine could be considered defective if there is “specific and consistent evidence.”[3]  Such evidence includes the time between a vaccine administration and the occurrence of the disease, an individual’s previous state of health, the lack of any family history of the disease, and a significant number of reported cases of the disease occurring following vaccination.[4]  Vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit quipped that “[u]sing those criteria, you could reasonably make the case that someone should be compensated for developing leukemia after eating a peanut butter sandwich.”[5]

In the United States, the United States Court of Federal Claims hears vaccine cases in the Vaccine Claims/Office of Special Masters court (“Vaccine Court”).[6]  The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program established a no-fault compensation program for petitioners.[7]  As a result of this program, anybody with any grievance can sue.  Autism and the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine link has generated the most hand-wringing this century.  The Vaccine Court put that to bed using science to reject all theories that linked the two.[8]

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Sadly, rumors and fear persist in our country.  Parents still try to opt-out of vaccines.  This has led to dangerous medical emergencies.  The Disneyland measles outbreak in 2015 was among the most publicized.  No deaths were recorded, but 147 people were sickened, including 159 more in Quebec.[9]  More epidemics will occur if people don’t start rejecting the falsehood that vaccines cause illness and allow themselves, and their children, to be vaccinated.

The Vaccine Court needs to reject the EU ruling.  They should follow the results of the autism proceedings as evidence that science is the only way to prove if a vaccine is safe or not.  Even “vaccine attorneys” advocate that people should be vaccinated.[10]  As law students, we are told to “get our facts straight.”  I would encourage us to “get our science straight” as well.

We need to get our science straight to advocate on behalf of vaccination.  The unscientific approach used by the EU court will further encourage the anti-vaccine camp.  Far too many people still believe the “alternative facts” about vaccines.  Unvaccinated people do not just affect themselves, they affect us all.

For example, the Carter Foundation is involved in eradicating the guinea worm disease, which is set to be only the second human disease eradicated after smallpox.[11]  The guinea worm is a parasite, and therefore the solution is not via vaccination, but is being implemented through education and techniques to clean the water in the afflicted areas.[12]  Education about disease is just as important as the science behind the cure.  If even one afflicted area refuses to work with the Foundation, then the parasite will never die.  The same can be said for vaccinations, and is exactly why problems like the measles outbreak occurred at Disneyland.

All of us involved in the legal field need to stay educated on scientific advances and trends so we can advocate knowledgeably on issues such as vaccines.

[1] See Case C-621/15, W v. Sanofi Pasteur MSD & Others, Curia (June 21, 2017), http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=192054&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=146995See also EU Court Says Vaccines can be Blamed for Illnesses Without Proof, NBC News (June 21, 2017, 12:32 PM), http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/eu-court-says-vaccines-can-be-blamed-illnesses-without-proof-n775101.

[2] EU Court Says Vaccines can be Blamed for Illnesses Without Proof, supra.

[3] EU Court Says Vaccines can be Blamed for Illnesses Without Proof, supra.

[4] EU Court Says Vaccines can be Blamed for Illnesses Without Proof, supra.

[5] EU Court Says Vaccines can be Blamed for Illnesses Without Proof, supra.

[6] United States Court of Federal Claims: Vaccine Claims/Office of Special Masters, http://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/vaccine-programoffice-special-masters (last visited June 22, 2017).

[7] Id.

[8] See Autism Master File, Various Petitioners v. Sec’y of Health & Human Services, USCFC (filed Jan. 12, 2011), http://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/autism/Autism%20Update%201%2012%2011.pdf.

[9] Measles Outbreak Traced to Disneyland is Declared Over, NBC News (Apr. 17, 2015, 3:18 PM), http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/measles-outbreak/measles-outbreak-traced-disneyland-declared-over-n343686.

[10] Meredith Wadman, Vaccines on trial:  U.S. court separates fact from fiction, Science Mag. (Apr. 27, 2017, 1:15 PM), http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/vaccines-trial-us-court-separates-fact-fiction.

[11] Guinea Worm Eradication Program, The Carter Center, https://www.cartercenter.org/health/guinea_worm/index.html (last visited July 11, 2017).

[12] Guinea Worm Eradication Program, supra.

Author: nkylrev

The Northern Kentucky Law Review, founded in 1973, is an independent journal, edited and published entirely by the students of NKU Chase College of Law.

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