During the first eight years of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), 786 contested claims were resolved through published judicial opinions. The likelihood of compensation depended in part on the closeness of the match between the described injury and a specified list of acknowledged untoward vaccine side effects. In addition, the chances of applicant success were influenced by the applicant's choice of attorney and expert witnesses, by the assignment of the Special Master to decide the case, and increasingly over time, by the applicant's ability to comply with procedural requirements. The majority of contested claims arose from pertussis immunizations. For pertussis claims, the goal of insulating manufacturers from product liability suits has been achieved by granting compensation to applicants whose injuries are not scientifically recognized effects of the vaccine. In spite of (or because of) this jarring contradiction between the legal and medical understanding of causation, vaccine availability and childhood immunization rates improved during the early years of the plan. The apparent success of the program may encourage the substitution of no-fault compensation plans for tort-based consumer protection for other products, both medical and nonmedical.

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