The National Vaccine Injury Program

MMR Issues / MMR Issue

In 1986 Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Act establishing a National Vaccine Program, the purpose of which was "…to achieve optimal prevention of human infectious diseases through immunization and to achieve optimal prevention against adverse reactions to vaccines." Program components included the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), to compensate victims of vaccine injury and death, and the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), a passive reporting system for the statistical monitoring of vaccine reactions.

The VICP’s primary two purposes were "to keep manufacturers from leaving the vaccine market, while at the same time compensating those individuals injured by vaccines." Liability insurance costs for vaccine manufacturers grew rapidly in the years preceding the Act, causing prices for some vaccines to rise by over 300% between 1980 and 1986. The objective was to have the federal government, under the oversight of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), assume liability for vaccine-related injuries in order to simplify causation issues for those seeking recovery. The Program succeeded in reducing lawsuits against manufacturers, but the question remains: Has protecting vaccine manufacturers from liability provided a disincentive for manufacturers to improve product safety?

In addition to keeping manufacturers in the market, the VICP was designed to provide an efficient and cost-effective adjudication process for vaccine injuries that is not available through the traditional tort system. The VICP is located in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Vaccine injury cases are adjudicated by Special Masters who function as the judge and who hear only vaccine cases. Petitioners (claimants) are virtually always represented by attorneys, who must be members of the bar of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The Respondent is the Secretary of Health and Human Services, represented by attorneys at the Department of Justice (DOJ). Claims are decided within statutory time limits and are subject to limitations on compensation amounts and attorney’s fees.

For a copy of the Government’s booklet “What You Need to Know About the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program”, CLICK HERE.