Final Verdict: Vaccination Not Problematic
Controversy over immunization and vaccination has become an increasingly common topic in popular news, on social media, and among medical providers. Although the medical and scientific community are united in their agreement that the use of vaccines is a safe, effective, and necessary tool for protecting individuals and populations from infectious disease, anecdotal accounts of vaccine injuries and a networked community of vaccine skeptics has generated increasing popular uncertainty over whether vaccines really are safe and effective.
Vaccines, like any pharmaceutical, are subject to testing and approval by the FDA. This testing process is lengthy and detailed, requiring controlled testing and careful studies. Even so, a physician who recommends any drug must be reasonably aware of its side effects and risks and balance the necessity of the prescription against the possible complications. A physician may be certain that a particular drug is necessary, but must still be clear with the patient in order to have truly informed consent.
In December 2011, 41-year-old Jane Wilson visited George Washington University Hospital with complaints of a bacterial infection. She had previously discussed the adult pneumococcal vaccination with her primary care physician and may have received it within the prior year. During the course of her treatment, a nurse at the hospital gave her a pneumococcal vaccination injection.
When Jane learned that the injection had been a pneumococcal vaccination, she became upset, as she believed it was unnecessary. She complained of inflammation and swelling at the site of the injection. With the help of Gregory L. Lattimer and Bernice Harleston, medical malpractice attorneys, she filed a lawsuit against District Hospital Partners, L.P., the company doing business as George Washington University Hospital. The suit alleged medical malpractice, nursing malpractice, hospital malpractice, lack of informed consent, negligent injection, and negligent treatment.
In its defense, the hospital retained the services of attorneys Thomas V. Monahan, Jhanelle Graham, and Shevon D. Rockett of Goodell DeVries Leech & Dann LLP. The jury trial took place in the District of Columbia Superior Court in Washington, DC in December 2016, and lasted for a period of six days.
During the trial, Jane argued that because she had received an earlier vaccination in the prior year, an additional vaccination was not medically necessary or indicated. Her medical malpractice attorneys cited information from the Centers for Disease Control stating that multiple vaccinations of pneumococcal vaccine were only indicated after a five year period. She argued that giving her the vaccination did not constitute informed consent, and that the injection resulted in permanent inflammation, swelling, pain, and neurological symptoms causing motor dysfunction. She said she was unable to play with her young son as previously and that her ability to enjoy her left was diminished.
However, the hospital records and staff testified that when asked, Jane had stated she could not remember whether she had received a prior injection, and that they gave the injection after consulting her primary care physician to check for conflicts. Additionally, the defense argued that the second vaccination had been a net benefit to her given her susceptibility to infection, and challenged the causation of her claimed permanent injuries.
After less than four hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of no malpractice. Cohen & Cohen, P.C.