Historic Vaccine Laws Affecting You and Your Rights – Part One: The 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act

My family’s research into vaccine safety began only because it had to. After our perfectly healthy twin sons became severely ill, and ultimately neurologically disabled following their routine childhood vaccines, we set out to find answers. Like so many, I had blindly trusted that anything approved by the FDA, and recommended by the CDC and my pediatrician, had been rigorously tested and proven safe and effective. I also trusted that I had been fully counseled on both the benefits and potential risks of the vaccines my babies were receiving. I was shocked to find out those things were not true.

During my early research, I was stunned by how much of what I was finding contradicted what I had actually been told. One such discovery was the existence of the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA). Learning that vaccine injuries, something I never even knew existed, were so prevalent that there had been a law enacted decades ago to deal with them was astounding to me. How had I never heard of this? I soon learned that, with the exception of seasoned members of the ‘vaccine injured community,’ most people had no idea this law existed. That’s why I wanted to write about it today.

The NCVIA came as the direct result of pharmaceutical companies who, after years of being sued and required to pay damages for injuries and deaths caused by their vaccines, threatened Congress that they would stop making vaccines if the government didn’t intervene. Afraid of a vaccine shortage, and convinced it would result in widespread disease, Congress obliged. The Act shields pharmaceutical companies from liability when their vaccines cause injury or death and also governs the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) set up to award damages via tax-payer dollars to those unfortunately harmed by their vaccines.

Most people have no idea that you cannot sue a vaccine manufacturer or that vaccines are the only product in the U.S. that enjoys this zero-liability status. Once granted this freedom from liability, with a multi-billion dollar product, a government-guaranteed market, and much less rigorous safety requirements than other pharmaceuticals, vaccines became the pharmaceutical industry’s proverbial golden goose. As a result, dozens of new vaccines were quickly developed and the CDC’s vaccine schedule tripled. Even as I write this, hundreds of new vaccines are in development with hopes of being added to the schedule at some point.

The arm of the Act set up to compensate victims, the VICP, was initially sold as an alternative, no-fault, non-adversarial, expeditious, administrative process. Compensation was to be based off of a list of compensable vaccines and a list of compensable adverse events and their expected time of onset known as the Vaccine Injury Table.  Shortly after its implementation, according to a number of public statements, public testimonies, and documented papers, the VICP was systematically altered to be a very contentious, expensive, drawn-out process with a shrinking table of compensable injuries and timeframes.

This short video from The Canary Party aptly describes the glaring conflicts within the NCVIA and how the faulty VICP stacks the deck against petitioners.

Sadly, though the video references demands for reform, the pharmaceutical lobby has successfully kept NCVIA and VICP reformations at bay.

Even with its inherent biases allowing the VICP to deny two-thirds of all claims, the program has still quietly paid out more than $3.5 billion in taxpayer dollars for vaccine injuries such as permanent brain damage, seizure disorders, autoimmune diseases, paralysis and death.

Here are a few more systemic problems with the NCVIA:

Vaccine Injury Tracking/Monitoring. Since the FDA had never tracked vaccine injuries as part of its ongoing drug monitoring, the Act set out to responsibly track/monitor adverse events by establishing required reporting to the federal registry VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System). Unfortunately, there is no accountability for providers or pharma employees failing to report, and for decades the average patient had no idea the registry even existed. Therefore, the scope of collateral damage from our nation’s vaccine program remains largely misunderstood, as the CDC acknowledges that the hundreds of thousands of VAERS entries are “only a small fraction of actual adverse events.”

Fully Informed Consent. The Act sought to boost sorely lacking informed consent by requiring providers to give more complete information outlining the true benefits and risks of vaccination beforehand. Unfortunately, this plan was hijacked when the significantly watered-down, CDC-authored Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) became the standard for informing patients of risks and benefits. The wording on these statements emphasizes disease risk, minimizes vaccine risks, and fails to list many of the acknowledged side effects either listed on the manufacturer’s package insert or listed in the VICP’s Vaccine Injury Table. Additionally, the VIS is misleading regarding safety/efficacy testing of vaccines. Patients are still never told that vaccines are less rigorously tested than other drugs, that vaccines are not tested against true placebos, that the routine practice of administering simultaneous vaccines at one visit has never been studied, or that the health impact of the cumulative vaccine schedule has never been tested for safety.

It’s likely that the 1986 Congress never foresaw (or, more likely, never even considered) these many unintended consequences of their actions. What We the People are left with is a severely broken system that provides no incentives for safe or effective vaccines, encourages the development/fast-tracking of unnecessary vaccines, holds no one accountable for the harm caused by the off-the-rails vaccine schedule, costs the tax payers billions to compensate a small percentage of victims, leaves most of the vaccine program’s ‘collateral damage’ left to fend for themselves, and continues to allow those who know better to mislead the public by denying vaccine risks and declaring vaccines categorically safe and effective.

Learning that my children’s neurological disabilities were both preventable and part of the government’s little-known, acceptable collateral damage of the national vaccine program was devastating. Having learned our lesson the hard way, and knowing it was too late to undo what we had unwittingly allowed to happen through our lack of informed consent, we were propelled into advocacy.

Stay tuned for Historic Vaccine Laws Affecting You and Your Rights – Part Two: The 2003 Exemption Law and the Rights We Will Fight to Keep to learn about vaccine choice rights in Texas.

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