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Parents of Autistic Children Continue Fight Against Homeland Security Act Provision

'Thimerosal Liability Shield' Prevents Them From Suing On Behalf of Their Kids

Jan 15, 2003 | Wilkes Barre Citizen's Voice

Parents of children with autism are continuing their fight to eliminate a provision in the Homeland Security Act, which they feel takes away the rights of children injured by vaccines.

This provision is called the "thimerosal liability shield."
Some parents believe that thimerosal in vaccines, manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, caused their children to develop autism, a neurological disorder that affects brain functioning.

George Shadie, president of SAFE (Supporting Autism & Families Everywhere) and father of a 13-year-old autistic son, stressed that SAFE is not an anti-vaccination group.
Yet, he noted that putting mercury in shots "has no basis in science, but only enhanced the bottom line" of corporations that manufactured these vaccines.

"What did the drug companies save? What did this mindless act cost?" Shadie asked. "How long have we, as a society, as families, been paying the terrible price?"

Many parents are pursuing litigation against Eli Lilly. They feel that the "thimerosal liability shield" in the Homeland Security Act would exempt drug manufacturers from liability for the manufacturing, sale and use of defective vaccines and pharmaceutical products.

These parents have questioned what relation childhood vaccines have to homeland security.

U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island recently announced that they are pursuing an agreement with the Senate leadership to eliminate the thimerosal liability shield from the Homeland Security Act.

This was welcome news to parents and non-profit organizations like the Safe Minds and the Mercury Policy Project, which have the mission of re-establishing justice and legal recourse for vaccine-injured children.

These groups are also dedicated to reducing and eliminating mercury exposure and improving children's health.

"We applaud Senators Chafee, Snow and Collins in their continuing efforts to right a terrible wrongdoing taking away the legal rights of autistic children," Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project said in a prepared statement. "We look forward to seeing the vaccine compensation act amended within the next six months so that it is more family-friendly."

Lyn Redwood, president of Safe Minds, hopes an agreement will be reached "for families of autistic children whose right to go to court was taken away in the Homeland Security Bill by a corporate special-interest provision for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly."

The Homeland Security Act was approved by a 90-9 vote in November of last year, but some provisions of the act are being debated this month.

U.S. Senators Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voted in favor of the legislation.

In a letter obtained by The Citizens' Voice, Santorum said the Homeland Security Act provision is actually intended to make it easier for families affected by the rare side effects of government-recommended vaccines to receive compensation.

Since 1986, the federal government has awarded $1.3 billion in compensation to more than 1,700 families through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, Santorum said.

Recently, Santorum said a number of lawsuits have claimed that an individual vaccine component is a contaminant and thus not covered by the VICP.

"These claims ignore that the component is listed on the product's label and was part of the product composition that won Food and Drug Administration approval," Santorum said.

"If allowed to continue unchecked, these lawsuits could produce serious vaccine shortages if the companies that manufacture components used in vaccines decide to stop providing their products to vaccine manufacturers due to liability exposure," he added.

"In fact, the establishment of the VICP was a response to a similar liability crisis in the mid-1980s, where a rash of lawsuits caused the number of companies worldwide that produce vaccines to dwindle from 12 to only four."

Santorum concluded that nothing in the provision's language "takes away anyone's right to sue if they are not satisfied with the arbitration provided by the VICP."

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