February 15, 2006

Democrats Seek to Repeal US Vaccine Liability Law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional Democrats on Wednesday introduced legislation that would repeal a law that gives vaccine, drug and medical device makers broad protection against lawsuits in a public health or bioterror emergency.

Democrats generally agree there should be some legal protections for certain vaccines but say the Republican version defined health emergency too broadly and did not compensate people who were injured.

The liability provision, strongly favored by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, was added to a defense bill enacted in December. Democrats would have an uphill struggle trying to repeal it.

Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy and 20 other House and Senate Democrats wrote a letter to Republican leaders saying, "The provision included in the bill is not limited to vaccines for pandemic flu or other major threats to the nation's health, but could instead be used to allow manufacturers of virtually any drug or vaccine to escape responsibility for gross negligence or even criminal acts."