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Jacobson v. Massachusetts

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act

Even though vaccines are intended to prevent illness, sometimes illness itself results when a patient, because of an allergy or for other reasons, responds adversely to a vaccination. Such a reaction can even be fatal, or at least permanent in its damage--a tragedy under any circumstances, but particularly in the case of a child. Such was the situation for Billy McCarren, whose parents alleged in a 1994 lawsuit that he contracted residual seizure disorder (RSD) and encephalopathy after being administered a diphtheria vaccination in 1990.

Situations such as Billy's had led Congress to pass the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in 1986. Among other things, the legislation requires physicians and other health-care providers who administer vaccines to keep permanent immunization records, and to report to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) any adverse reaction suffered as a result of a vaccination. The act also provided for a Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), which has its own 800-number hotline.

The McCarrens and many others have filed suit for compensation by that fund, only to have their claims denied. The CDC, while noting that three-quarters of its petitioners are the families of injured or dead children, counters that denied claimants such as Billy McCarren do not show "recognized vaccine injuries" as stipulated by the act.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917Jacobson v. Massachusetts - Significance, Compulsory Vaccination Lawful, Court Defers To Legislature, Exemption For Unfit Adult?, Impact