“In this post I explain how one goes about proving a case in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), and how that differs from proving a case in the civil courts, focusing on what it means to have a no-fault program and proving causation. I will use a case that started with the tragic death of a young child after a vaccine to illustrate the complexity and operation of the program, and also to address the idea of federal preemption, and how it limits the ability of those claiming vaccine injuries to use state courts for their claims. ”
In June 2012, a labor court in Rimini, Italy granted compensation to the family of a child named Valentino Bocca. The family alleged that the MMR vaccine Valentino received as part of his childhood immunizations caused his autism, and the court compensated them on that theory. The lower court’s decision was never on very firm grounds: it depended in part on testimony of an expert decision who relied, in turn, on Andrew Wakefield’s debunked study. But it was used by anti-vaccine activists as part of their claims.
On February 13, 2015, a Court of Appeals in Bologna overturned the decision–a decision that apparently lead to a decline in MMR immunization rates in Romagna, an historical district of Italy.
The Court of Appeal accepted the appeal filed by the Ministry of Health (ministero della Sanità). The expert appointed by the court of appeal highlighted that there is no scientific evidence supporting a link between vaccines and autism. The expert highlighted that the lower court expert was wrong to rely on the study by Andrew Wakefield, a study debunked and rejected by the scientific community.
The expert also highlighted that while there is some temporal link between Valentino’s MMR vaccine and autism, in the sense that the diagnosis of autism followed the vaccine, the temporal connection was not strong and does not itself support a causal connection.
The expert, Dr. Lodi, stated that “In the medical history of the child there is not an objective temporal correlation between the gradual emergence of autistic disorders and the MMR vaccine, there is only the fact that the two events occur one before the other, but as shown, this is not sufficient to relate the two events “.
The Bocca’s lawyer, Luca Ventaloro, claimed that he will appeal to the Supreme Court of Cassation (Corte Suprema di Cassazione), the highest court in Italy.”
“On the 23 of September, 2014 a judge in the Labor Court of Milan awarded compensation (pdf, translated from Italian) to a child on the theory that the hexavalent vaccine manufactured by GSK – which protects children against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, invasive disease Haemophilus influenzae type B and hepatitis B – caused the child’s autism. The decision was based on an expert’s opinion that made several extremely problematic arguments, arguments that go against the scientific evidence. It has been criticized by the Italian scientific community (translated summary, pdf), and is, apparently, being appealed.
This post explains the reasoning of the decision, and why it is fundamentally flawed.”