The purpose of this paper is to review the nature and extent of pertussis vaccine litigation in Great Britain, Canada and the United States. It is not intended to deal in detail with the medical or scientific controversy that surrounds this vaccine except to the extent necessary to explain the litigation.
In order to understand what has been called by some a growth industry for lawyers, one must have a basic understanding of the nature of the disease and the nature of the vaccine and know something about the neurological development of the young child.
The disease whooping-cough (pertussis) is well known as an acute and distressing infection of the respiratory tract. Although less frequent in recent years, it has been a disease relatively common in infant children.
The disease is caused by a bacterium known as Bordetella pertussis, which produces catarrhal coughing that results in repetitive, explosive or paroxysmal coughing.