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Commentary

Vaccine vacuity
Tom Bray, Washington Times, 10-25-04

Mr. Bray adds another piece to the vaccine shortage debate: the impact of tort liability on vaccine manufacturers. In the 1960s, there were 26 companies making various vaccines in the U.S. Today, there are four, and none manufacturing the flu vaccine. One commentator traces the problem to a single case in 1955, when a little girl received a polio vaccination and was struck by a rare side effect. Although the manufacturer was not found negligent in the ensuing court case, the jury still awarded the family nearly $150,000.

Since vaccines are by definition given to people who are healthy, any side effects are bound to command multi-million dollar verdicts from sympathetic juries. As a result, companies would just as soon ignore the market altogether as expose themselves to bankrupting tort verdicts. Bray concludes that "in the name of safety and compassion, we have succeeded in creating a world that is actually more dangerous, not less dangerous, particularly, in the case of the flu vaccine, for the very old and the very young." America's tort system, in other words, is in many ways more dangerous than the problems it is supposed to prevent.



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