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Autism and the Vaccine Court


Updated July 08, 2007

Autism, Vaccines and the Law

Virtually no mainstream institution or practitioner believes that vaccines cause autism. Nevertheless, thousands of parents, doctors and researchers are convinced otherwise. They have what they feel is compelling medical evidence that thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative) and measles virus, either separately or together, can be blamed for many cases of autism.

In some states, certain vaccinations are required by law before a child can enter school. Vaccinations are considered to be a public health necessity though there have always been people who opposed compulsory vaccination.

Since the development of the first vaccines, it has been well-known that some people react badly to some vaccinations. Certain reactions are well-documented, and well understood. To make it possible for parents to sue for compensation without endangering the public health, the United States Court of Federal Claims created a Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

The United States Court of Federal Claims was founded during the Lincoln Administration to handle suits against the federal government. In 1988, a special branch of that court was founded to manage claims made as a result of vaccine injuries. Here's how the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is described on its own website:

    The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program ("Vaccine Program") comprises Part 2 of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 ... The Vaccine Act became effective October 1, 1988. It establishes the Vaccine Program as a no-fault compensation scheme whereby persons allegedly suffering injury or death as a result of the administration of certain compulsory childhood vaccines may petition the federal government for monetary damages. Congress intended that the Vaccine Program provide individuals a swift, flexible, and less adversarial alternative to the often costly and lengthy civil arena of traditional tort litigation.
The Vaccine Program has its own set of "Vaccine Rules" which govern the manner in which cases may be brought and handled. It is important to know that a parent may not bring a vaccine-related case before a civil court until it has been addressed in the Vaccine Court. It is also important to know that the case must be filed within three years of the first appearance of vaccine-related symptoms in the child.

The "Vaccine Trials"

In June 2007, the first of nearly 5,000 cases claiming compensation for autism-related vaccine injury came before the "Vaccine Court." To facilitate this rush, the Special Masters who hear and judge vaccine-related cases requested that several "test cases" be brought before the court. The ideas was that evidence from these test cases would not have to be repeated 5,000 times as each plaintiff comes before the court.

The test cases address at least three possible scenarios under which vaccines could be considered to blame for autism. These include a combination thimerosal/MMR scenario; an MMR alone scenario; and a thimerosal alone scenario. The outcomes of the test cases will have a significant impact on those that follow.

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