Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Do Your Vaccines Contain Mercury?

We are often asked if our vaccines contain mercury. Some parents even want to see the package insert to check. Note: even if they do contain mercury, it usually doesn't say "mercury", so I suspect some of these parents wouldn't notice. Why wouldn't they notice? Because they learn one tag word that they should avoid, but they really don't understand what it is and why they need to avoid it. It's hard to talk to some parents who are adamant that they don't want vaccines for their children, but they don't know why... they just "heard they aren't safe." Really? You're not going to give your child something that has been shown time and time again to not only be safe, but that also saves lives? Just because you heard something you don't even remember details to you'll skip something that could save your child's life?

Short answer to the above question: No standard vaccine for children has had thimerosol since 2001. Some flu vaccine for older children and adults continues to have thimerosol, but most that we order for our office does not. If we offer a type with thimerosol, we will notify you before you choose to vaccinate. Not that we think it matters, but we know parents worry and want to know.

Most years I get the FluMist, but I think the year pictured it was in short supply.

Parents worry about thimerosol despite not really understanding when or why it's used. It's really sad when they ask if we have the "new" MMR without thimerosol. The MMR has never had thimerosol in it. Not ever. Yet many people share the mis-information online that it was/is the cause of autism. And people believe it. That's how much their online research has taught them.

If you hear that vaccines aren't safe from someone but don't ask for and understand the details, including looking at research papers and written articles that address the issue (along with evaluating the reliability of each research report and article) then you really shouldn't take the advice blindly. They might know as little as you on the subject and are just passing along bad information. Or the article you read might just be filling you with incorrect information. It's easy to do when a writer has a motivating factor, such as when the CDC Whistleblower "reanalyzed" data.

Mercury comes in many forms. Thimerosol (one form) is felt by scientists to be safe for use in vaccines at the very low levels required for its effect in vaccines. It has been removed from most vaccines given to children though due to a very vocal group of anti-vaxers getting some congressmen on their side. Not scientists or doctors, but law makers. This has increased the cost but not the safety, in my opinion. We use single dose vaccines except for staff flu shots, for whom we use the cheaper multi-dose vial. The multi dose must have preservatives, such as thimerosol, to keep it from getting contaminated with multiple uses. We usually have a few doses left out of that to give to patients so it's not wasted. When this type is given to patients, their parents are always told it is a multi dose type. There were only limited doses left over this season and they were gone long ago. Many parents were just happy to be able to get a flu shot for their child when they were in short supply early in the vaccine season and they trusted that it was safe.

So... would I give a vaccine with thimerosol to my kids? Yes. (And my oldest is a teen who did get the standard back when he was a baby, which was vaccines with thimerosol.)

Do we give them now? Not usually.

I think that many smart people still get blindsighted by well written but technically not correct information. They simply can't read all the studies, know how to understand the statistical significance of each study, and all the science behind everything. I have a degree in medicine and still rely on experts to do reviews and summarize the vast amount of information. I read some of the studies, but don't have enough information to make truly educated decisions based on what I have access to. Too many studies are behind pay walls and I don't want to pay to read them, nor do I have the time to read every study. 

But I trust expert panels that do.

Here are some links to pages that list the studies if you want to read them for yourself:


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