history of vaccines and lawsuits

Paul Offit at the Boston Globe writes compellingly about vaccine companies, lawsuits, and evidence.

He talks about pertussis vaccine lawsuits involving minimal or absent evidence in the 70s and 80s, which contributed to the number of companies making vaccines decreasing from 18 to 4 from 1980 to 1990. Then he talks about the consequences of that:

The infrastructure to make vaccines became tenuous, and vaccine shortages became commonplace. For example, in 1998, the tetanus vaccine was in such short supply that its use was restricted to emergency rooms. Beginning in 2000, a pneumococcal vaccine for children — designed to prevent bloodstream infections, meningitis, and a common cause of pneumonia — was available only intermittently; parents could only hope that their children weren’t among the thousands permanently harmed or killed every year by pneumococcus.

Between 2003 and 2004 an influenza epidemic created a demand that dramatically exceeded supply; more than 150 children died that year from influenza. Since 1996 severe shortages have occurred for 10 of the 16 vaccines routinely given to children and adolescents. All of these shortages resulted in a delay in getting vaccines, and some children never got the vaccines they had missed.

I’d been writing about the autism/vaccine lawsuit while being worried about the future, but the past has been pretty scary too. I’m glad that science and forethought has managed to win out even as much as it has…

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