Drug makers not liable if people get sick from COVID vaccine

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) - The announcement that drug companies were getting closer to a COVID-19 vaccine is welcome news for a weary country.

“I think it’s exciting,” said Josh Walden, “necessary to restore life back to normal, how it was before.”

But with these vaccines being fast-tracked, there are questions about whether they will be safe, and if something does go wrong, who’s legally responsible.

Because we are in a pandemic, a COVID-19 vaccine is being handled differently from other vaccines.

It’s being placed under the Public Readiness Emergency Preparedness Act.  It protects drug makers from potential fallout and court cases in case something goes wrong, and encourages them to work faster.

It was set up so drug makers feel safe moving fast, and don’t have to worry about a financially crippling lawsuit if things go wrong.

“The real tradeoff is what are you going to give up to have something that we really need so that we can have some kind of normalcy, and what we’re giving up is the ability to go to court to get compensation,” said Jon Groth, an attorney for Groth Law Firm, S.C.

Groth says what that means is that if the vaccine makes you sick, or even kills you, you can’t sue in court.  The matter goes to a government agency called the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program, where damages are capped, and a lot harder to get.

“It’s pretty close to absolute immunity for drug makers,” said Groth.

It may seem like a get out of jail free card for drug makers, but it was put in place specifically to get us out of things like this pandemic and save lives in the long run. And it doesn’t mean drug makers are free from all responsibility.

“Drug manufacturers are run by people, and those people have families, and those families are affected just like you are, just like I have been, so I am hopeful, and all I can do is hope, that they are doing the right thing,” said Groth.

Groth also points out that there will be an extra incentive to be safe, given the number of countries trying to develop a vaccine.  “Hopefully with all that competition it’s going to mean a higher degree of safety and fewer people who are injured because of this, and millions more who are safe because of this,” he said.

In a country that’s been fighting a losing battle for most of 2020, when a vaccine is ready, there will no doubt be a rush to take it.

“Hopefully when it all comes out in the long run, we’re all going to be safer for the geniuses over at these vaccine companies that have been working so hard for us,” said Groth.

“I think probably the best minds in the world have been working on it, there’s a lot of like government money behind it and I think it’s in everyone’s interest to get something through that’s effective,” said Walden.

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