The US Supreme Court decided yesterday in a 6-to-2 decision that parents cannot sue the manufacturers of immunizations over side effects from the shots their babies receive.
Russel and Robalee Bruesewitz are parents of an infant that allegedly suffered a severe reaction to a vaccine. USA Today reports that the suit originated in Pennsylvania and was brought against Wyeth, now owned by Pfizer, when Russel and Robalee’s daughter, Hannah, began having seizures after she was injected with a Wyeth-made vaccine. Hannah is now 19 years old, but has developmentally impaired since she received the vaccine at 6 months old.
But the high court ruled that the Bruesewitz’s lawsuit was preempted under National Childhood Vaccine Act of 1986. The law grants drug companies immunity from certain lawsuits tied to vaccinations.
The family had gone to a vaccine court, but the suit had been thrown out of the lower court, and now that Supreme Court has affirmed that decision. Chief Justice John Roberts, justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, and Antonin Scalia made up the majority of the vote, justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were in dissent. Justice Elena Kagan had no part of the decision.
The dissenting judges wrote that the decision “leaves a regulatory vacuum in which no one ensures that vaccine manufacturers adequately take account of scientific and technological advancements when designing and distributing their products.”
Amy Schulman, Executive Vice President of Pfizer, praised the decision, says USA Today. Schulman says that “expert federal agencies” should determine “the optimal design of lifesaving childhood vaccines.”
Regardless of the decision, immunizations still offer children the best chance of protection from infectious diseases.