July 16, 2017
9 months

Why in news?

A recent judgment in a vaccine compensation case in Europe has ruled that courts may consider vaccines to be the cause of an illness, even in the absence of scientific evidence confirming a link.

What is the case?

  • A French man vaccinated against hepatitis B developed multiple sclerosis and ultimately died.
  • The ruling gave way for consideration of circumstantial evidence in judgements.
  • This includes prior health of the patient, absence of family history and alleged numbers of other similar cases.

What is the impact of the judgement?

  • The EU court verdict has drawn criticisms from various experts.
  • Vaccines are among the most effective public health interventions saving millions of lives.
  • The minor risks caused by side effects of vaccines far outweigh the benefits.
  • The judgement has sown seeds of doubt about proven vaccines.
  • The resulting hesitancy over vaccine use could cause a rise in vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks of deadly infections.

What should be done?

  • Public health interventions must be guided by scientific panels.
  • All reported side effects of vaccines need to be evaluated scientifically.
  • Most countries have now established effective vaccine pharmacovigilance programmes.
  • For example India’s adverse events following immunization (AEFI) surveillance programme.
  • This surveillance programme has helped India to win similar legal battles against pentavalent vaccine use.
  • The need of the hour is to ensure effective surveillance, compensation for those affected and to promote public confidence in vaccines.

Quick Facts

Multiple sclerosis

It is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues.

Hepatitis B

It is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV).


Source: The Hindu

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