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“The jury system works almost perfectly — in terms of resolving issues of human behavior,” Offit says. But as he writes in The Cutter Incident: How America’s First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis, “The revolution in liability law — designedto coerce companies to make safer products by threatening financial punishment — (has caused) companies to abandon safe products vital to the nation’s health.”

Today, four companies (GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, Merck, and Wyeth) make vaccines. “Because fewer companies make vaccines,” Offit writes, “limited supplies and scant reserves are available to meet a crisis.”

Now, thanks to Penn’s project, Paul Offit and other physicians are sitting at the same table with the lawyers and legal scholars. And Offit is the first to extol the virtues of starting a cross-disciplinary, cross-professional dialogue on this issue.

“This process is helping me to better understand how others view these issues. Eric lays out his thinking, and everyone is treated respectfully. Society is not well served if we fail to overcome antagonistic relationships … and if we fail to help the public distinguish between true risk and unproven claims of causal links between a vaccine and injury.”

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