Senate Democrats Plan To Remove Vaccine Liability Provision in Homeland Security Bill
Senate Democrats will likely "try to strip out" a provision from legislation to establish a new Department of Homeland Security that would limit liability for vaccine manufacturers before lawmakers vote on the bill tomorrow, the Wall Street Journal reports. The bill, which the House passed last week, includes a provision that would protect Eli Lilly and other vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits filed over allegations that thimerosal, a mercury-based vaccine preservative, causes autism in children. Democrats said that GOP lawmakers included the "special interest" provision in the bill to benefit "Republican allies," the Journal reports (Calmes, Wall Street Journal, 11/18). Under the provision, a federal vaccine compensation program established in 1988 to provide liability protection for vaccine manufacturers would address lawsuits related to vaccines. The program, funded through surcharges on vaccines, caps compensation for individuals allegedly injured by vaccines at $250,000. Some health care providers have said that they would administer the smallpox vaccine without such protection (California Healthline, 11/15).
The Senate plans to vote on an amendment that would remove the provision from the homeland security bill. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) predicted that the amendment would pass with support from the 49 Democrats in the chamber and "some courageous Republicans." Senate passage of a homeland security bill without the vaccine liability provision would require the House to accept the Senate version of the legislation or reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills in a conference committee, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 11/18).
According to a Wall Street Journal editorial, the Republican-sponsored vaccine liability provision represents "an essential part of homeland security that will save lives." The editorial states that the vaccine industry faces a "proliferation" of lawsuits over allegations that thimerosal causes autism in children -- although studies have found "no evidence" that the preservative causes neurological disorders -- and many vaccine manufacturers may leave the business as a result. "If these lawsuits are allowed to proceed, forget about a stable supply of vaccines," the editorial concludes (Wall Street Journal, 11/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.