Markovich v. Secretary of Health and Human Services: An Ounce of Cure for a Pound of Prevention

June 16, 2012

There’s an old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Vaccinations seem to exemplify this, allowing people to avoid diseases entirely by submitting to a simple injection, rather than forcing them to worry about the more difficult alternative of treating the disease once it is contracted. Markovich v. Secretary of Health and Human Services is a case in which an infant suffered severe injuries resulting from a vaccination. To address such rare situations, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act establishes a system through which injured parties may recover medical costs from the government. This Recent Development examines a failure of that system to serve its intended purpose. It looks at ways in which the court’s decision in Markovich runs counter to the policies underlying the creation of the system. It also considers the court’s erroneous interpretation of statutory language and the injustice of denying compensation to infants injured by vaccines that results from this misapplication. Markovich illustrates how the few children injured by vaccines may be offered precious little financial restitution for the unintended consequence of a technology that keeps the rest of us healthy.