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Supreme Court Rejects Vaccine-Safety Lawsuit

TUESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- A U.S. law protects drug makers from lawsuits filed for serious side effects caused by childhood vaccines, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The court, in a six-to-two vote, decided against a Pennsylvania couple who said their 19-year-old daughter's developmental problems were caused by a diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine she got when she was 6 months old. The parents sued the vaccine maker, Wyeth, which was acquired by Pfizer Inc. in 2009, in Pennsylvania state court, according to published reports.

Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said the nation's special vaccine court was established to handle such legal claims, so that compensation could be provided to injured children without driving drug makers from the vaccine market, the Associated Press reported.

The dissenting votes were cast by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

The vaccine court has awarded more than $1.9 billion to an estimated 2,500 people over the years, according to the AP.

The court's decision was endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents 60,000 pediatricians across the country.

In July 2010, the AAP joined 21 other health organizations to file a "friends-of-the-court" brief in the case, urging the Supreme Court to protect the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The program was established by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Act of 1986, which "preempts design defect claims against vaccine manufacturers," the academy said in a news release.

"Childhood vaccines are among the greatest medical breakthroughs of the last century," said AAP President Dr. O. Marion Burton. "Today's Supreme Court decision protects children by strengthening our national immunization system and ensuring that vaccines will continue to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in this country."

More information

To learn more about childhood vaccines, visit the American Academy of Family Physicians.

-- HealthDay staff

SOURCES: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, Feb. 22, 2011; Associated Press

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