When Brookings Institution senior staff member Warren Cikins was a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, he believed that the well-educated should get involved in government.
So four years ago, when the federal government's swine-flu program began, Cikins was one of the first to roll up his sleeve. "Being on the Fairfax Board, I took the shot because the president of the United States told me to, even though I was hesitant," he said.
Cikins now has his regrets. This week U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. rejected Cikins' claims that side effects from the flu vaccination resulted in temporary blindness in his right eye.
Bryan's ruling which did not consider the government's overall liability in running the swine-flu program, marked the first defeat for someone suing the government over the ill-fated vaccination program. Of 1,200 other cases around the nation, only two have gone to trial and in both cases the government accepted the link between the flu vaccine and Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder that results in temporary paralysis of a patient.
Cikins said yesterday he is reluctant to invest the time and money to appeal the case. But he added, "It seems to me that when the government takes the responsibility to protect the health of the citizenry, it has an obligation to remedy the wrong it does to anyone it damages through that action."
Cikins developed optic neuritis -- blurred vision in his right eye -- three weeks after receiving the vaccine at Mount Vernon Hospital. Over the next three years, he said, he spent about $10,000 seeking advice from six doctors and collecting evidence for his case.
Meanwhile, Cikins said, the vacine's side effects changed his life style. Party because of his medical problems, he decided against seeking reelection to the Board of Supervisors last year, he said.