TUESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- A U.S. law protects drug
makers from lawsuits filed for serious side effects caused by
childhood vaccines, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
The court, in a six-to-two vote, decided against a Pennsylvania
couple who said their 19-year-old daughter's developmental problems
were caused by a diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine she got
when she was 6 months old. The parents sued the vaccine maker,
Wyeth, which was acquired by Pfizer Inc. in 2009, in Pennsylvania
state court, according to published reports.
Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said the nation's
special vaccine court was established to handle such legal claims,
so that compensation could be provided to injured children without
driving drug makers from the vaccine market, the
Associated Press reported.
The dissenting votes were cast by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg
and Sonia Sotomayor.
The vaccine court has awarded more than $1.9 billion to an
estimated 2,500 people over the years, according to the
The court's decision was endorsed by the American Academy of
Pediatrics, which represents 60,000 pediatricians across the
In July 2010, the AAP joined 21 other health organizations to
file a "friends-of-the-court" brief in the case, urging the Supreme
Court to protect the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The
program was established by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury
Compensation Act of 1986, which "preempts design defect claims
against vaccine manufacturers," the academy said in a news
"Childhood vaccines are among the greatest medical breakthroughs of the last century," said AAP President Dr. O. Marion Burton. "Today's Supreme Court decision protects children by strengthening our national immunization system and ensuring that vaccines will continue to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in this country."
To learn more about childhood vaccines, visit the
American Academy of Family Physicians.