The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently offered liability protections to the companies working to develop a vaccine for ebola.
The HHS declaration shields companies from any lawsuits connected to the manufacturing, testing, distribution, and administration of an ebola vaccine. The only way for a person injured by the vaccine to sue is on grounds of willful misconduct by the manufacturer.
With more than 6,300 people in West Africa dead from the disease, HHS wanted to encourage manufacturers to make even an experimental vaccine available.
HHS has the power to offer immunity thanks to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act. Signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005, the PREP Act allows for the quick development of vaccines in times of pandemics or when a disease poses a “present and credible risk of a future public health emergency.”
For example, HHS declared PREP Act protections during the avian influenza scare in the mid-2000s, when companies were rushing to develop a vaccine.
But the PREP Act doesn’t just help manufacturers — it also helps the general public. During a pandemic, it’s vital that the federal government encourage the production and development of vaccines as soon as possible. The longer it takes to develop a vaccine, the more people that could contract a deadly disease.
The PREP Act also establishes a fund to provide “timely, uniform, and adequate compensation” for anyone hurt by vaccines granted immunity by HHS.
In many ways, the PREP Act is similar to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
Developed in 1988, the VICP offers financial compensation to those who suffer vaccine-related injuries. Before then, anyone injured by a vaccine had to sue the manufacturer directly.
That was bad for both parties.
First, those suffering from a vaccine injury had to go through a long and expensive legal battle. There was no guarantee that they could get just compensation for their injuries.
Second, the threat of costly legal battles discouraged manufacturers from making vaccines. That was bad news for the general public, since vaccines are safe and effective for most people.
By creating the Program, Congress offered protections for both patients and manufacturers.
The Program is funded through an excise tax of 75 cents placed on every covered dose in the United States. And the fund is working. The average reward in 2014 for an injury was more than $500,000.
As researchers continue to work to develop an ebola vaccine, it’s important to remember that vaccines can yield rare but serious side effects. Thanks to the PREP Act and the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, there is help for those hurt by vaccines.
If you have suffered from a negative shot reaction, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, shoulder pain, or any other illness subsequent to receiving a vaccination, please contact us today. Vaccine attorney Leah Durant is available to provide you with a free telephone consultation. This vaccine attorney is a seasoned litigator whose practice is dedicated to serving those injured by vaccines.