U.S. Beginning To Suspend Mercury Limits
in Flu Vaccines Leading To Greater Toxicity
In preparation for swine-flu vaccinations next month, Washington's
Health Department on Thursday temporarily suspended a rule that
limits the amount of a mercury preservative in vaccines given to
pregnant women and children under the age of 3.
The preservative, thimerosal, has never been linked to any health
problems, said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. But many believe
the compound could be linked to autism. The state Legislature
adopted the limit in 2006.
Thimerosal has been eliminated from most vaccines in the United
States, but it will be added to the bulk of the swine-flu vaccine
being produced to stem a pandemic that health officials estimate
could sicken more than a third of the state's residents.
Pregnant women and young children are considered at high risk
for swine flu, and lifting the mercury limits will give them quicker
access to the vaccine, Selecky said. May vaccine critics also
believe it will make the vaccine more toxic.
"It's vital that everyone in a high-risk group has the choice
to be vaccinated when swine-flu vaccine becomes available,"
About 85 percent of the vaccine supply will be contain mercury.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said
Thursday that 6 million to 7 million doses of the vaccine were
made available the first week in October, mainly in the form of
a nasal spray called FluMist.
About 40 million flu shots should be ready by the middle of October,
with an additional 10 million to 20 million doses rolling off
the assembly lines every week after that for a total of 250 million
"We will have enough vaccine to immunize every American
who wants to be immunized," Sebelius said in a briefing.
"But it won't all be available at the same time."
The vaccine itself will be free, Sebelius said, but health-care
providers can charge to administer it.
Thimerosal will be added to the vaccine because it is being produced
in vials that contain enough medication for 10 shots. The claim
by vaccine developers is that mercury kills bacteria, lowering
the risk that the drug will be contaminated by needles used to
withdraw separate doses.
"Every time you introduce a needle, you run a risk of introducing
a potential contaminant," said Dr. Tony Marfin, state epidemiologist
for infectious disease.
Mercury-free vaccine will be produced in single-dose vials. Nasal
sprays do not contain mercury but are not recommended for children
under the age of 2 and pregnant women, because they contain live,
An analysis published also found that the nasal spray is less
effective than shots in adults under 50.
Selecky said the law limiting the mercury preservative will be
suspended for six months and applies only to the swine-flu vaccines.
Once common in vaccines, thimerosal has been largely phased out
in most wealthy nations. Children's vaccines in the United States
are almost exclusively mercury-free, single-dose injections.
After 1976's mass vaccination against a different swine-flu strain,
about 500 people developed a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre
Syndrome (GBS), and some died.
Scientists still haven't figured out why, but there has never
again been a connection between flu vaccine and GBS, Marfin said.
Americans are often blasé about flu, with less than half
of people including health-care workers bothering
to get annual shots.
The state is working with clinics, doctors, hospitals and others
to set up inoculation programs and bracing for crowds.
"We are expecting high interest," Selecky said.
full list of h1n1 vaccine ingredients, alerts and warnings.
Reference Source 137
October 14, 2009