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Vaccine CourtThe Law and Politics of Injury$
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Anna Kirkland

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479876938

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479876938.001.0001

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The Solution of the Vaccine Court

The Solution of the Vaccine Court

(p.65) 2 The Solution of the Vaccine Court
Vaccine Court

Anna Kirkland

NYU Press

The vaccine court was created by federal legislation in 1986. This chapter tells the story of the founding and shifts in the vaccine court over time, placing it in a rich context of parental protest against the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine in the 1980s and showing how the scientific and legal conflicts that have riven it over time have shaped its responses to vaccine injury claims. After the pertussis vaccine scare of the 1980s subsided, fears of autism cropped up in the late 1990s. Parents wanted to bring lawsuits in regular civil courts, not in the vaccine court. The chapter presents the challenge posed by the potentially massive lawsuits claiming that thimerosal in vaccines caused autism and notes the court’s flexibility over time and its shrewd balancing of science and policy in the face of panic and uncertainty. Claims that autism is a vaccine injury would have to be adjudicated in the vaccine court.

Keywords:   pertussis vaccine, legislation, National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, autism, thimerosal, class action lawsuits

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