CHL Rounds Up Reactions to Vaccine Liability Provision in Homeland Security Bill
Newspapers and columnists nationwide have recently addressed a provision attached to the homeland security legislation that protects pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly from lawsuits involving thimerosal, a preservative that was used in vaccines that some contend is a factor in childhood autism. No member of either the Bush Administration or Congress has stepped forward to acknowledge having written the rider (Gay Stolberg, New York Times, 11/29). The following are summaries of op-eds on the provision:
New York Times: The "backroom political maneuver" that gave Eli Lilly protection against thimerosal lawsuits "was not only an abuse of congressional process," it "fan[ned] fears about the safety of vaccines" and the ingredients used to protect them "from dangerous contamination," according to a New York Times editorial. The Times cites several studies that have found no link between thimerosal and neurological disorders in children and notes that the World Health Organization recently endorsed the use of the preservative. The editorial concurs with the American Academy of Pediatrics' statement that the "benefits of vaccination outweigh the theoretical risk of adverse effects, if any, from the small volume of thimerosal in the vaccine" (New York Times, 12/5).
Wall Street Journal: Protecting thimerosal from "runaway legal liability" is the "right thing to do as a matter of public health," and instead of "ducking behind Capitol pillars," Republicans "should be trumpeting their support," according to a Wall Street Journal editorial. No scientific study has ever found a link between vaccines and autism, but some people opposed to vaccination have "spent years falsely claiming" that vaccines cause everything from multiple sclerosis to cancer, the Journal writes. The editorial states that vaccine opponents "use their cause" to "divert time and resources" away from "legitimate research" of autism. U.S. public health agencies made a "huge mistake" in ordering the preservative's removal from vaccines in 1999 over concerns that anti-vaccine groups would "scare parents away" from immunizing their children, even though the agencies knew that the vaccine was safe, according to the Journal. The recommendation "brought unwarranted fear, vaccine shortages" and "frivolous" lawsuits, the editorial says. The Journal concludes that if Republicans "can't explain to parents that thimerosal is about supplying safe vaccines to their children, they don't deserve the majority" (Wall Street Journal, 12/5).
- Arianna Huffington, Los Angeles Times: It is "vital" that "an official investigation" be conducted into the "mystery" behind the authorship of the thimerosal rider because the "behind-closed-doors monkey business" is an "affront to the very democracy this bill was designed to protect," columnist Arianna Huffington writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece. Any lawmaker who has ever "waxed lyrical" about accountability "owes it to the public to demand that Congress get to the bottom of just who ordered a provision that has absolutely nothing to do with homeland security into the homeland security bill," Huffington writes. Huffington concludes by saying that the "continued influence" of Washington's "greedy corporate masters" constitutes a "clear and present danger" to society and that if the president is "serious about protecting the homeland, he should speak up" (Huffington, Los Angeles Times, 12/5).