In 1986 Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act that established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) to award compensation to victims of vaccine injury.
In this three-part series, we look at the world of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, established as a no-fault alternative to the civil courts, and that was supposed to provide efficient, fast, and fair compensation for people injured by vaccines. We also explore the workings of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (also known as vaccine court).
- Barbara Loe Fisher, one of the world’s leading non-medical, consumer advocacy experts on vaccinations and co-author of the influential book, DPT: A Shot in the Dark. She is also the co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC).
The 1986 Vaccine Injury Act
What role did the National Vaccine Information Center play in the establishment of the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act?
Barbara Loe Fisher: We were called Dissatisfied Parents Together back then, DPT, because our children had been injured by DPT vaccine, which is no longer used in this country because we worked for 14 years to get a safer vaccine that is now given to babies and causes fewer serious reactions. Although it still can cause brain injury, it does so less frequently. We were young parents, and we worked with Congress after a documentary DPT: Vaccine Roulette was aired in the spring of 1982. We called the station, some of us, and we got together and we worked with Congress on the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. Our singular contribution was the safety provisions in that law, the informing, recording, reporting, and research provisions.
That law has not been implemented the way it was supposed to. The compensation program that was included in that law is not being operated the way we were promised it would. At the time we protected the ability for parents to go to court to sue negligent doctors and negligent manufacturers. — Barbara Loe Fisher
Weakening of the Law
Barbara Loe Fisher: Unfortunately, in the succeeding years after that law was passed, there were amendments added by Congress that severely weakened the law. They took away liability for the doctors giving vaccines. And in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court came in, declared vaccines to be unavoidably unsafe, and removed all liability. Effectively, all liability from the vaccine manufacturers, even if they could have made a vaccine safer, that was removed. The only way you can sue these companies now is if you can prove criminal fraud, gross negligence.
Why is the government making it so hard for victims of vaccine injury to get compensated?
Barbara Loe Fisher: I think that they’ve never really changed their stand. That is that vaccines very, very, very rarely cause injury or death and that, therefore, for the greater good, those who are harmed just need to get over it. Unfortunately, when it’s your child who is the one, you’re the one for whom the risks are 100 percent, and then you go in and you do your research, and you find out that there are these gaps in the science.
The policy is a one-size-fits-all policy that doesn’t respect biodiversity, the fact that we’re all different genetically, epigenetically. We don’t present at the time of vaccination all the same. And yet the policy is one size fits all, particularly these mandatory vaccination laws that are now being subjected to a lobbying effort by those who believe that there should be no exceptions to vaccination. — Barbara Loe Fisher
The Science of Vaccine Safety
We’ve been told that vaccines are safe and effective by the CDC, our doctors, and the FDA. Is the science of vaccine safety and efficacy as solid and conclusive as they are telling us?
Barbara Loe Fisher: This controversy, this ongoing debate about vaccine safety and about mandatory vaccination laws really hinges on the fact that there are large gaps in vaccine science. If you go into the medical literature, you will see the bench scientists talking about this. We have basic gaps in knowledge about how, when you recover from a disease, how that confers a long-lasting immunity in the body. We have fundamental gaps in the biological mechanisms of how vaccines can cause brain and immune system dysfunction. These gaps in knowledge need to be filled in before you can really go forward and design better vaccines that are safer or more effective. Or we need to reevaluate the whole vaccine program as to whether or not we need all of the vaccines that are now on the childhood schedule.
Do we know how many people have been injured by vaccines?
That’s a very important question that unfortunately cannot be answered. The National Vaccine Information Center has been asking the government for going on 40 years to please do the scientific studies that will give us that information as to how many children and adults are regressing into chronic poor health after vaccination. Those studies have not been done. — Barbara Loe Fisher
Vaccine Injury Compensation
Is it easy for victims to get compensation through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program?
Barbara Loe Fisher: No. So the law established the program that was supposed to be an alternative to a lawsuit, not instead of a lawsuit. You were supposed to be able to go to court if you were turned down for compensation or offered too little. And especially if you can prove that the company could have made the vaccine safer.
This is about children who are mandated to get vaccines by the states. Today, the majority of awards are for adults that have reactions to the flu vaccine. They have turned so many children away. Two out of three people are turned away from the compensation program. — Barbara Loe Fisher
How to Make an Informed Vaccine Decision
How can parents make an informed decision about vaccinations?
Barbara Loe Fisher: The way you can make an informed decision is that you need to become educated. NVIC.org is a great starting point because, as I said, we reference our information. We link out to the CDC, FDA, the vaccine manufacturers, the medical literature studies, many different kinds of sources. So you can start there. If you want to go deeper into the library of medicine and do your own research, I encourage that.
National Vaccine Information Center Resources
Barbara Loe Fisher: We have some information for you. If you vaccinate, there are eight questions that you can ask yourself about your health, your child’s health, your medical history before you take your child in to be vaccinated. It’s about becoming educated. We also have a guide to reforming vaccine policy and law that you can download fully referenced. It gives an overview of the vaccine, the safety and informed consent issue, it’s illustrated, and it gives you a really quick way of looking at the whole issue.
Press play to listen. Does Barbara’s interview make you think differently about the National Vaccine Injury Act of 1986? Please comment below.