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December 7, 1984

How to remedy possible harm to a few persons: from vaccines that could benefit entire society?

JAMA. 1984;252(21):2942-2946. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350210006002

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The vaccine compensation issue clearly is attracting increasing attention.

Identical bills in both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate (neither of which was enacted during the congressional session that just adjourned), an acceptance by an administration spokesperson of the principle of removing redress for vaccine injuries from the tort system (to a form of "no-fault" administrative review), and statements by other concerned officials have made news. These responses appear to have been prompted, among other reasons, by a rash of lawsuits over injuries alleged to have been caused by pertussis immunizations. The costs of litigation and increases in liability insurance premiums have led to the withdrawal from the market of one manufacturer's pertussis vaccine, and to the threat of vaccine shortages.

Vaccines always have had the potential to be a two-edged sword.

On the one hand, they have led to the elimination, or great decreases in incidence,