November 17, 2005
Consumers Union, the non-profit, independent publisher of Consumer Reports, urges that as Congress considers legislation to deal with a possible pandemic (such as Avian flu or some future strain of virus) that a system of effective compensation be established to help those first line responders, health workers, vaccine production employees, and the general public who may be injured by reaction to any anti-pandemic courses of treatment.
We are concerned about reports that Congress may soon pass legislation to provide liability protections for vaccine manufacturers but not address in any way the issue of help for injured consumers of such vaccines.
The national effort to fight a pandemic emergency will be slowed, and possibly unsuccessful, if American consumers believe that they may be temporarily or permanently injured by reaction to a vaccine. More must be done to educate the public about the relative safety and possible side effects of vaccines and to ensure healthcare workers and the general public that if there are medical side effects, there will be an effective system of compensation.
The failure of many first line responders to accept smallpox inoculations following September 11th is an example of how much more needs to be done to reassure the American public about any pandemic response program.
We believe it would be a serious mistake for Congress to adjourn for the year without providing assurances for effective compensation. We all face this danger together and special help for one group is not the way to build public trust and support for a national program of preparedness.
Senior Policy Analyst