By Nancy Hokkanen
Overturning a Supreme Court decision is a tall order, necessitating a constitutional amendment or a new Court ruling. Despite the effort and obstacles, the eventual repeal of SCOTUS’s 2011 Bruesewitz v. Wyeth ruling is behind four resolutions discussed by Minnesota legislators and advocates at a Capitol press conference May 14 in St. Paul.
The 2011 SCOTUS Bruesewitz verdict eliminated vaccine injury victims’ option to sue pharmaceutical companies after first working through the problem-ridden National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, or “Vaccine Court.” A 6-2 majority of the Supreme Court held that “the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act preempts all design-defect claims against vaccine manufacturers brought by plaintiffs seeking compensation for injury or death caused by a vaccine’s side effects.”
HF2862, HF2825, SF2781 and SF2831 are Minnesota resolutions to reverse Bruesewitz, by “memorializing the President and Congress to hold vaccine manufacturers liable for design defects that result in adverse side effects from vaccines.” Local vaccine safety advocates helped develop the language with legislators, in an attempt to restore the NCVIA to its original Congressionally mandated intent.
Since Oct. 1, 1988, the Vaccine Court has paid out $4.1 billion to victims of vaccine injury, and is hardly the free-and-easy road to generous compensation that industry-linked critics claim. The resolutions ask Congress to “override the Supreme Court decision, and remove Bruesewitz to allow petitioners to file suits in state or federal court,” according to speaker Wayne Rohde, father of vaccine-injured child and author of The Vaccine Court: The Dark Truth of America's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
Minnesota’s Capitol was chaotic Tuesday because its legislative session ends May 20. Rep. Jeremy Munson (Dist. 23B) made
Minnesota Rep. Jeremy Munson.
time to lead the half-hour press conference, organized primarily by the Vaccine Freedom Coalition and Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota. In attendance were reps from metro TV stations, radio and a newspaper, and lobbyists including the Minnesota Medical Association.
Rep. Munson stated that he is not anti-vaccine; rather:
“I am for making sure we that have a balance in the system that allows vaccine manufacturers to be held accountable if their products are dangerous. If everyone believes that vaccines are safe, that they cause no injury or they can’t cause injury, then there should be no problem with… going back to the law that we used to have, that allowed people to seek civil cases against vaccine manufacturers.”
Sen. Jim Abeler, chief author of SF2781, noted the large number of vaccine injury claims filed – and “how tortuous the route is to actually get a claim resolved” after an injury or death. And he questioned public health officials’ definition of “safe” – which differs from Webster’s Dictionary. “We’re in a world where the Department of Health calls them ‘exceedingly safe’ – I think that nothing is further from the truth.”
Sen. Abeler stated that vaccines are safe for some people but not all, and compared them to peanuts. “Nobody disbelieves the peanut allergy family. Unfortunately when somebody has a reaction to a vaccine, they are somehow considered to be unbelievable.”
Vaccines are classified as biologics, not drugs, so safety testing requirements differ. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that U.S. vaccines are “as safe as possible,” but critics point to contaminants, lack of true placebos, and data fraud in vaccine research.
A 2012 American Medical Association Journal of Ethics article states, “…[V]accine manufacturers are now not liable for failing to improve vaccine designs and defects, unlike manufacturers of other products.” When a manufacturer bears no professional or financial liability for unsafe reactions, “Then they’re much more casual with their safety testing,” said Abeler.
Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter J. Patrick Coolican.
At 4:25 in the Senate video, Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter J. Patrick Coolican suddenly interrupted Sen. Abeler’s presentation with an irrelevant question:
“Do you think that gun manufacturers should also be protected from liability? Because they currently are, by an act of Congress.”
Sen. Abeler replied that Coolican’s question was another topic for another day, but added, “I appreciate the joke.” (To folks in the know, Minnesota’s legislative progress has been held up recently by polarizing partisan gun policy debates.)
Next Coolican half-asked:
“So you’re not pro-vaccine.”
Clearly Coolican had an agenda and was baiting Sen. Abeler, rather than:
(1) listening to the full presentation content, or
(2) asking a question pertinent to the material being presented.
Only two minutes before (at 2:58) Sen. Abeler had stated most distinctly: