A recent editorial {"The Vaccine Dilemma," Dec. 5} described the problems faced by families whose children experience adverse reactions to routine immunizations. It suggested that we should accept the House provisions to current law, contained in the budget reconciliation bill, even though they would produce a program that is "half a loaf." Americans do not have to accept half a loaf; the administration has a responsible alternative, embodied in H.R. 3546 and S. 1907, that would result in a stable, cost-effective compensation program for all injured persons.

As The Post noted, the compensation process currently takes place in the courtroom and is governed by the rules of tort law. The tort system, however, unfairly compensates too few, costs too much and takes too long. Moreover, varying as it does from state to state and from jury to jury, the tort system interposes a degree of uncertainty that has had the effect of dramatically increasing the cost of liability insurance.

As a result, some manufacturers have stopped producing childhood vaccines altogether, and those who remain in the market have been forced to increase their prices sharply. Indeed, in the case of the DTP vaccine, more than half its price is attributable to liability costs. Vaccine prices already are up 44 percent from fiscal 1985 levels, and states are very concerned about the impact these prices will have on their ability to immunize all children.

The House provisions referred to in the editorial would restrict future compensation to 150 claims per year even though 220 cases are predicted each year. The claims would be paid on a first-come, first-served basis, forcing some back to the courts. In contrast, H.R. 3546 and S. 1907 employ an exclusive-remedy approach that would result in payment, at an equivalent level, of all eligible claims resulting from injuries occurring after the effective date and for four years prior to that date.

The administration's approach, based on the successful workers' compensation programs, would provide full compensation for costs and potential lost earnings, with a limited amount for pain and suffering. It would establish a new, independent Vaccine Compensation Board to resolve claims. And it would relieve the injured person of the difficult burden of proving that the vaccine was defective.

The road to enactment of a compensation program has been long and hard, and some believe that any program is better than none at all. But current law under the House provisions is not the solution to this dilemma; these provisions will only exacerbate an already serious problem. I hope people will join me in support of H.R. 3546 and S. 1907 so that we can secure a fair and predictable program. Our children deserve nothing less. OTIS R. BOWEN Secretary of Health and Human Services Washington

Although the editorial on children's vaccines made some legitimate points, I believe certain of its conclusions were based on false assumptions. In referring to those unfortunate children who are harmed rather than helped by vaccines, The Post stated that they and their families ''bear the cost of better health for the population as a whole'' and ''are clearly entitled to compensation.'' Hardly.

It is understandable that the parents of these children should lash out at the world, but that is not to say it is logical. Like tornadoes and earthquakes, vaccine sensitivity is a naturally occurring tragedy, unavoidable and unpredictable -- an act of God, if you will. It would make as much sense to blame the parents for having children as it does to allow the courts to penalize vaccine manufacturers for a product so universally esteemed that we mandate its use for our preschoolers. (That this does, in fact, happen is a credit to the Lewis Carroll School of Law, whose alumni permeate our legal system.)

Unquestionably, congressional legislation is called for, but mainly to stem the flood of litigation responsible for the horrific rise in the cost of all medical services and products, including vaccines. At the same time, I am sure a majority of Americans would be pleased to see funds appropriated for the reasonable and equitable compensation of child victims of vaccine sensitivity. But such compensation should be recognized for what it would be: an act of compassion, not of entitlement. ELLICOTT McCONNELL Easton, Md.