Vaccine Court: The Law and Politics of Injury. By Anna Kirkland. New York: New York University Press, 2016.

Published date01 March 2018
Date01 March 2018
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Vaccine Court: The Law and Politics of Injury. By Anna Kirkland.
New York: New York University Press, 2016.
Reviewed by Carol A. Heimer, American Bar Foundation and
Department of Sociology, Northwestern University
Although most Americans probably believe that the federal and
state courts handle all civil legal cases, in fact the U.S. Congress has
placed a few matters, such as vaccine injuries, in the hands
of special courts. Kirkland’s illuminating and insightful book intro-
duces us to the vaccine court, created in 1986, a relatively obscure
hybrid institution where “parents, activists, researchers, doctors,
lawyers, and health bureaucrats come together to wrangle over
what vaccine injuries really are” (2) and which cases should receive
compensation. And although the special masters of the vaccine
court encounter a great deal of uncertainty as they try to decide
which injuries merit compensation, those judging this book have a
comparatively easy task: its considerable merits are easily discerned.
Through the hybrid institution of the vaccine court, law and sci-
ence work together to co-produce the “immunization social order,”
essentially the laws, institutions, biotechnologies, and social practi-
ces that jointly produce high levels of vaccine coverage. A stunning
success by any measure, the immunization social order has vastly
Book Reviews 273

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