Several deadly diseases have been completely eradicated in the United States because of widespread vaccination. However, widespread vaccination has not been without problems. As the incidence rate of some diseases were reduced, people began to notice the rare problems with vaccinations themselves. That led to more and more lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.
By the 1980s, the costs of defending lawsuits led some vaccine manufacturers to stop producing certain vaccines. Their logic made sense: If they didn't make a vaccine, you couldn't sue them for it. However, the frightening result was a looming shortage of certain vaccines. This would have meant inevitable increases in preventable and often devastating diseases.
National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
Then, Congress stepped in. In 1986, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was signed in to law by President Ronald Reagan. That law created the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program ("VICP") which began officially in 1988. In order to ensure that the costs of lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers were relatively predictable, thereby ensuring the manufacturers would continue making vaccines, the VICP acts as a way for injured people to be compensated without having to sue directly.
The VICP requires that a person who believes they were harmed by a covered vaccine file a petition with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (Covered vaccines are listed here*). Therefore, instead of suing the manufacturer directly, you are asking to be compensated from a pool of money funded by the vaccine manufacturers. Since 1988, vaccine manufacturers pay seventy-five cents for every covered vaccine they sell.
Can you still sue?
So, can you still sue? In some circumstances, yes. You may sue the vaccine administrator (the folks who gave you the vaccine) and/or the vaccine manufacturer:
If the vaccine you received was not one of the covered vaccines
If you filed a VICP petition and it was judged non-compensable or was dismissed, or
If you rejected the award you were able to obtain through the VICP.
However, whether or not you can sue may not be the best question. A better question is whether or not you can recover money damages for being harmed by a certain vaccines. The answer to that is yes. Since the program started, the VICP has awarded petitioners a total of nearly 4 billion dollars.
There are strict timeframes for many VICP claims, though. So, if you believe that you or a loved one have been injured by a vaccine, you should contact an attorney who specializes in vaccine injuries as soon as possible.