Big Pharma’s Exemption from Liability for the COVID-19 Vaccine

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW

It’s akin to sedition to question anything these days about the covid crisis and the vaccination campaign. Even medical professionals who are not necessarily in opposition, but have science-based concerns about the drug are mocked, vilified, or simply ‘canceled’. While the majority of my psychotherapy therapy clients are relieved to have access to a vaccine and the hope of returning to a state of greater ease and agency, there are those who remain, for a variety of credible reasons, ambivalent. In the confidential safety of sessions, these folks have the freedom to voice their trepidation. Steering clear of digital identity fears, civil liberties violations, and biological weaponization, we instead address more practical concerns fueling hesitancy about being inoculated.

One glaring source of distress is Big Pharma’s exemption from any sort of liability. Likewise, the FDA has sovereign immunity. Publicly stated or not, mass-vaxxing with no accountability is indeed troublesome to many.

In an effort to acquire a basic understanding of why and how Big Pharma has legal immunity from damages, I’ve come across some interesting data.

In 1905 the Supreme Court ruled that Swedish-American Pastor Henning Jacobson’s refusal to submit to mandatory vaccination for smallpox, in spite of his citing personal inoculation risks, was unlawful. This landmark decision stipulated that a public health measure designed to protect and benefit the collective exceeds the needs of the individual, irrespective of individual harm that may be incurred from a vaccine. Accordingly, the Court’s decision upheld the authority of states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws while pointing out that individual liberty is not absolute and is subject to the police power of the state.

Ergo, Jacobson v. Massachusetts set a precedent by justifying government facemask orders and stay-at-home restrictions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the caveat with mandatory vaccination measures is that the enforcement of such a public health proposal means that the cure rendered must conform to the legal and medical definition of creating immunity and preventing transmission. It must be a vaccine, not a treatment. Accordingly, by definition, a vaccine (according to the CDC and FDA) disrupts transmission and stimulates immunity.

Hence, the warp-speed delivery of a covid vaccine allowed a mass initiative to be launched that is rendering huge profits for Big Pharma, while ensuring indemnity or complete immunity from lawsuits.

Freedom from liability is ensured through The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, signed into law by George Bush as part of the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act (HR 2863). It allows the Health and Human Services Secretary to declare any disease an epidemic or public health emergency requiring mandatory vaccinations. The PREP Act serves as a tort liability shield intended to protect vaccine manufacturers from financial risk in the event of a declared public health emergency. It provides drug manufacturers immunity from potential financial liability at the discretion of the Executive branch of government. Recently invoked by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, all approved vaccines will be protected from lawsuits until 2024.

Needless to say, creating an indecently lucrative market through government measures and potential federal and state mandates along with liability protections, reveals a significant conflict of interest between private enterprise motivations and public health. It is this reality that has generated skepticism in many Americans, who are consequently remaining on the fence with inoculation.

When profits drive science and vaccine manufacturers like Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Johnson and Johnson are exempt from liability, it causes folks to be legitimately concerned about the safety and reliability of injectable treatments that have been produced in just under a year, especially when one considers that vaccine development typically takes ten to fifteen years.

What’s more, these drug companies don’t exactly have an impeccable track record or business model. Random extraordinary price hikes and kickbacks to doctors are common practices and lest we forget, America’s pharmaceutical industry played an instrumental role in fueling the addiction crisis. Originally painkillers such as oxycontin were fraudulently introduced by companies like Purdue and Johnson and Johnson as non-addictive. In the throes of the covid pandemic Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen reached a tentative $26 billion settlement with the counties and cities that sued them for damages.

Another glaring example of misrepresentation is Merck’s aspirin substitute Vioxx. Well aware that Vioxx raised the risk of cardiovascular injury and death during its clinical trials, the manufacturer Merck chose to cover up that fact in order to increase the chances of the drug getting approved by the FDA.

Undoubtedly pairing commercial interests with ethical regulations is problematic. Given all we know about the systemic criminality of Big Pharma and profit-driven healthcare, many simply feel shaky about putting blind faith in celebrity-driven publicity campaigns and political endorsements that insist on fulfilling one’s moral and civic duty by getting vaccinated.

Although federal law currently prohibits mandating vaccination under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), recently Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway announced it would require all students to get the vaccine. On the Federal level, it is highly recommended, not mandatory to get vaccinated, but on the state and local government level vaccine mandates are permissible, as long as employers consider religious accommodation requests under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and medical accommodation requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Hence, I am hearing from my clients similar stipulations conveyed at Rutgers being touted at their workplace. Essentially, they are told ‘vaccinate or don’t return to work’. These indiscriminate mandates are a huge concern for folks reluctant to get vaccinated. While it’s true that countering with a lawsuit may be a tenable response under extenuating circumstances, the erosion of civil rights continues to be a looming threat.

The stigma of questioning the unknowns and the risks cause many to simply comply with the status quo. Patient informed consent, dialogue, and civil liberty may be traded in to offset public backlash, unemployment, community ostracism, and other punitive measures.

Yet true vaccine confidence, “implies trust in the vaccine (the product), trust in the vaccinator or other health professional (the provider), and trust in those who make the decisions about vaccine provision (the policy-maker).” (Larson HJ, Schulz WS, Tucker JD, Smith DMD).

With the recent allegations of Bill Gates’ ten-year African vaccination campaign inciting polio outbreaks in Sudan Chad and Cameroon, trust is difficult to come by. Memories of the boycott of the World Health Organization’s vaccination campaign initiated by Kenyan Catholic bishops in 2014 due to allegations of sterilizing African women, surface. Likewise, in 1995 similar allegations were made that women in Mexico, Nicaragua and the Philippines were unknowingly receiving a tetanus vaccine laced with the anti-fertility drug human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).

Whether these claims register as truth or conspiracy, they nevertheless engender doubt and spark distrust with the healthcare industry. They cause many to wonder about the unknown longer term risks of death and injury incurred from the current nationwide vaccination campaign, particularly when just this past week concerns over rare but serious blood clots for the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson viral vector COVID-19 shots have compelled European officials to not renew next year’s supply.

Just as disconcerting as unknown long term side effects, are the proliferation of tactics that silence and vilify dissenting voices that question government policies and corporate strategies. We are left to ponder if down the road, will legal rights to informed consent, the right to refuse unwanted medical interventions, religious expression and autonomy be maintained? With the powerful U.S. pharmaceutical lobby controlling both our government and our media, it is hard to say.

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As a survivor (and thriver) of complex trauma and a seasoned therapist specializing in treating complex trauma, narcissistic abuse syndrome and addictions, I am intent on creating content that affords informative insight, hope and healing from psychological disorders. I aim for my creative content to assist readers with tapping into the resiliency of the human condition while recognizing the countless challenges of being human.

New York City, NY

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