Tag: thimerosal

“Pro-Safe Vaccine” Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

As a pediatrician who has always fully vaccinated and protected his own kids, I didn’t totally understand what it meant when my first parents told me that they were pro-safe vaccine.

If they were interested in safe vaccines, I thought, why not get their kids vaccinated and protected? After all, vaccines are safe! Their baby was due to get several very safe vaccines at her upcoming two-month checkup.

At a screening for Vaxxed, Paul Thomas, MD, joked that kids with autism were brain damaged. And everyone laughed.
At a screening for Vaxxed, Paul Thomas, MD, joked that kids with autism were brain damaged! And everyone laughed.

I eventually got an answer.

“You don’t have to dig far to know that vaccines have caused tremendous harm. Have they had benefits? Absolutely. Which is why I remain somewhat on the neutral side in saying that I am not anti-vaccine,” said Dr. Paul Thomas. “I’m pro-safe vaccines. I’ve progressed along to the point where I now don’t believe there is such a thing.”

Folks who say that they are pro-safe vaccines typically:

And they want new, safer vaccines that can’t possibly cause any kind of side effects.

Of course, these new, safer vaccines must be toxin-free, without any preservatives, stabilizers, and especially, no chemicals of any kind. They should also be free of gluten, antifreeze, thimerosal, vaginal spermicides, and heavy metals. Essentially, they would just be antigens, without other ingredients, because these folks don’t understand how vaccines are really made.

“Pro-Safe Vaccine” Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

Are you starting to see the problem with folks who say that they are pro-safe vaccines now?

“I’m not for starting an epidemic of another disease. We just want there to be some type of conversation, once. Sit down with our side, with our doctors and scientists, to take a look at what we’re talking about. We’re not an anti-vaccine movement. We’re pro-safe-vaccine schedule. Until we have that conversation, people are going to think it’s an anti- and pro- side.”

Jenny McCarthy

Who were these doctors and scientists that she had on her side?

“In our community we say, “Yeah.” We firmly believe the cause of the epidemic of autism is due to a vaccine injury and/or other environmental exposures — pesticides also. But what on this earth we all kind of share the most is vaccines.”

Jenny McCarthy

Right. So she is not anti-vaccine, but she thinks that vaccines injure people and have caused and epidemic of autism?

And that’s where her pro-safe vaccine schedule comes in…

And we’re saying: “Delay them. Delay them till age 2. Skip some that you might not need.”

Jenny McCarthy

Like all of the other alternative vaccine schedules out there, Jenny McCarthy’s pro-safe vaccine schedule had no evidence that it was safe or effective.

And that gets to the root of the issue. We don’t know what causes autism, so it must be vaccines.

“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one.”

J. B. Handley

But what about the folks who have moved beyond listening to Jenny McCarthy and being concerned about autism?

They have the same goals and are still scaring parents with the same old messages that have been used by the anti-vaccine movement for hundreds of years.

And they just don’t believe the overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe and necessary.

What Does It Mean to Be Pro-Safe Vaccine?

So what does it mean to say that you are pro-safe vaccine?

Essentially, it means that you are anti-vaccine, but don’t want to say that you are anti-vaccine.

More on the Pro-Safe Vaccine Movement

 

Which Vaccines Contain Heavy Metals?

Are you worried about heavy metals in vaccines?

Which Vaccines Contain Heavy Metals?

Multi-dose vials of flu vaccine clearly still contain the preservative thimerosal.
Multi-dose vials of flu vaccine clearly still contain the preservative thimerosal.

Believe it or not, your kids aren’t going to be exposed to any heavy metals when they get their routine vaccines.

The closest that they might come would be getting a flu vaccine with thimerosal, as mercury is indeed a heavy metal and thimerosal breaks down to ethylmercury. But then, the great majority of flu vaccines are now thimerosal-free, so they probably won’t.

Even if they did, it is important to note that thimerosal was removed from vaccines as a precaution, not because it was toxic.

What about aluminum?

It is no secret that many vaccines contain aluminum.

“Aluminum is a heavy metal with known neurotoxic effects on human and animal nervous systems. It can be found in the following childhood vaccines – DTaP, Pediarix (DTaP-Hepatitis B-Polio combination), Pentacel (DTaP-HIB-Polio combination), Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae B (HIB), Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and Pneumococcal vaccines.”

NVIC on  Aluminum and Vaccine Ingredients: What Do We Know? What Don’t We Know?

Do you know what we know about aluminum?

It isn’t a heavy metal.

Heavy metals include copper, gold, iron, lead, mercury, platinum, plutonium, silver, tin, and zinc.

Aluminum is classified as a light metal. Other light metals are calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.

I guess that it makes aluminum sound scarier if you say it is a heavy metal though…

It also make it sound scary if you imply that the aluminum salts in vaccines are neurotoxic. They aren’t.

But what about the idea that vaccines are contaminated with heavy metals?

“Metals including toxic lead contaminate virtually all aluminum adjuvants, a widely-used ingredient of human and animal vaccines, according to a recent study published in the leading journal of the vaccine industry.”

CMSRI on Lead, Iron, Chromium and Other Metals Routinely Contaminate Vaccine Adjuvants, Industry Study Reports

While that was the CMSRI takeaway from the study, Influence of elemental impurities in aluminum hydroxide adjuvant on the stability of inactivated Japanese Encephalitis vaccine, IXIARO, if you actually read it, you find that they found that “all aluminum hydroxide lots examined in this study met” safety guidelines from European agencies (Ph. Eur. 2.4.8) and the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP 231).

And many folks think that a study ‘finding’ contamination by a few Italian scientists, New Quality-Control Investigations on Vaccines: Micro- and Nanocontamination, actually found “that vaccines are incredibly pure.”

Vaccines are safe and necessary.

Don’t let folks scare you from vaccinating and protecting your kids by making you think they contain heavy metals or anything other “toxin.”

What to Know About Heavy Metals in Vaccines

Vaccines do not contain any toxic heavy metals.

More on Heavy Metals in Vaccines

How Aluminum Became the New Thimerosal

Once thimerosal was taken out of vaccines, some doctors were left with a dilemma. What were anxious parents going to worry about now?

Some continued to push myths about thimerosal, but many quickly found a new “toxin” to scare folks about – aluminum.

More than 10 years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a position paper stating that “aluminum is now being implicated as interfering with a variety of cellular and metabolic processes in the nervous system and in other tissues.”

Lawrence Palevsky, MD on Aluminum: The New Mercury?

Palevsky wasn’t the only doc to try and shift parents’ fears onto aluminum.

He wasn’t even the first to make it sound like the AAP had been warning about aluminum for years and years.

Bob Sears, MD seems to have that honor with his 2008 article in Mothering Magazine, Is Aluminum the New Thimerosal?.

“As a medical doctor, my first instinct was to worry that these aluminum levels far exceed what may be safe for babies. My second instinct was to assume that the issue had been properly researched, and that studies had been done on healthy infants to determine their ability to rapidly excrete aluminum. My third instinct was to search for these studies. So far, I have found none. It’s likely the FDA thinks that the kidneys of healthy infants work well enough to excrete aluminum before it can circulate through the body, accumulate in the brain, and cause toxic effects. However, I can find no references in FDA documents that show that using aluminum in vaccines has been tested and found to be safe.”

Bob Sears, MD

Unlike Dr. Bob, my first instinct when faced with a situation like this is to look to someone with a little more expertise before scaring folks away from vaccinating and protecting their kids. And do you know what all of those experts say – aluminum salts in vaccines are safe.

Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment "Vaccines: A Bad Combination?"
Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment “Vaccines: A Bad Combination?”

That’s not surprising, because just about everything Dr. Bob warned about and somehow equated with vaccines, was really about premature neonates and infants getting daily intravenous fluids and IV feeding solutions over prolonged periods of time, especially premature neonates and infants with impaired kidney function. Although aluminum toxicity wasn’t thought to be a common problem, even in these situations, it was thought to be enough of a risk that doctors were warned about it, and TPN fluid was limited to no more than 25 micrograms per liter of aluminum.

And that’s why the AAP had issued their position paper.

Now, would a premature baby getting IVF or an IV feeding solution containing aluminum every day for several weeks or months ever really be thought of as being at the same risk as an infant who gets a few aluminum salt containing vaccines at their well checkups?

No, it is clearly not the same thing.

“We conclude that episodic exposures to vaccines that contain aluminum adjuvant continue to be extremely low risk to infants and that the benefits of using vaccines containing aluminum adjuvant outweigh any theoretical concerns.”

Mitkus et al on Updated aluminum pharmacokinetics following infant exposures through diet and vaccination.

And not surprisingly, the aluminum salts that kids get in vaccines have been shown to be safe.

“Importantly, aluminum has a good safety record in which reported adverse events have been limited to acute local reactions.”

Glanz et al. on Cumulative and episodic vaccine aluminum exposure in a population-based cohort of young children.

Don’t believe the new anti-vaccine propaganda about aluminum and don’t let it scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

“We found no evidence that aluminium salts in vaccines cause any serious or long-lasting adverse events.”

Jefferson et al. on Adverse events after immunisation with aluminium-containing DTP vaccines: systematic review of the evidence.

Vaccines are safe and necessary.

Vaccines with aluminum salts as an adjuvant are safe and necessary.

What to Know About Aluminum Adjuvants in Vaccines

Aluminum salts in vaccines are safe. Skipping or delaying your child’s vaccines because you have been scared about aluminum isn’t.

More on Aluminum Adjuvants in Vaccines

Myths About Thimerosal in Vaccines

Over the years, especially since thimerosal was removed from most vaccines, the myths about thimerosal have surprising been increasing.

“Currently, the actions taken by the vaccine manufacturers, the FDA and the CDC have increased the possible maximum childhood exposure to mercury from vaccines to twice the level that triggered the 1999 call to remove mercury from all vaccines as soon as possible!”

Rev. Lisa K. Sykes on “Ten Lies” Told About Mercury in Vaccines

Of course, none of them are true.

Myths About Thimerosal in Vaccines

To begin with, there was no “call to remove mercury from all vaccines as soon as possible.”

Instead, as a “precautionary measure,” the AAP asked vaccine manufacturers “for a clear commitment and a plan to eliminate or reduce as expeditiously as possible the mercury content of their vaccines.”

“In addition, today most tetanus shots and the multi-dose Sanofi Menomune vaccine that are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still contain 25-micrograms-a-dose mercury.”

Rev. Lisa K. Sykes on “Ten Lies” Told About Mercury in Vaccines

Other myths about thimerosal include that:

  • After “realizing” the amount of mercury in the childhood vaccination schedule recommended by the CDC exceeded all national and global maximum safety limits, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the United States Public Health Service called for the immediate removal of Thimerosal from all vaccines on July 7, 1999. – the amount of thimerosal in the childhood immunization schedule actually only exceeded EPA guidelines and was well below the guidelines of the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR) or the FDA. Also, since thimerosal-free versions of DTaP and Hib have always been available, only “a minority of infants could receive as much as 187.5 mg of ethylmercury during the first 6 months of life.”
  • children are getting even more mercury from vaccines today than when mercury was removed from vaccines, because pregnant women and kids get flu shots now – this theory doesn’t take into account that thimerosal-free flu vaccines have been available since 2003 and until recently, many kids didn’t get flu shots. For example, during the 2008-09 flu season, only 25% infants and toddlers were fully vaccinated against flu and even fewer pregnant women got flu shots (about 15%). The only way this myth could possibly be true would be if these folks all got a flu vaccine with thimerosal each and every year.
  • even as thimerosal was removed from the DTaP, Hib, and hepatitis B vaccines, kids still got exposed to thimerosal from other vaccines, like Menomume, the meningococcal vaccine –  Although Menomume contained thimerosal, it had only been recommended for high risk kids since it was approved in 1981. It was later replaced by Menactra and Menveo, both of which are thimerosal-free, and which were recommended to all kids as they provided better coverage. Menomume was discontinued in 2017 and it is unlikely that many kids got it once Menactra and Menveo became available.
  • kids still get a tetanus shot with thimerosal – yes, they did, at least until the Tdap vaccines were approved in 2006. Tdap is thimerosal-free.
  • Thimerosal has never undergone even one modern safety test. – although mercury can be toxic, the thimerosal in vaccines has been shown to be safe. That’s not surprising – remember, “the dose makes the poison.”
  • Published studies have shown that Thimerosal and its mercury breakdown product contribute to: Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Arthritis, Food Allergies, Premature Puberty, and Infertility. – thimerosal in vaccines doesn’t cause any of these things, but you can probably find a published study somewhere saying that thimerosal causes Alzheimer’s, cancer, or food allergies, etc., but that just points to how important it is to look to trusted sources of information, as almost anyone can publish a bad study
  • Contrary to sound bites you hear on the nightly news, to be “anti-mercury” is not to be “anti-vaccine.” – if this is true, then why did Robert F. Kennedy, Jr write an editorial against University of Colorado students who passed a resolution for meningococcal B vaccines, which are thimerosal-free? And why push so much propaganda about thimerosal?
  • Corresponding to the sharply increasing level of mercury in the immunization schedule globally, which started in the late 1980’s, there has been an increasing rate of autism among children. This also explains why autism among 40-, 50-, 60-, 70- and 80-year-olds is not epidemic, but rather rare. – this is one of the main problems of the anti-vaccine movement… if you believe that autism is an epidemic, then there must be a cause and it becomes easy to blame vaccines. You also have to ignore the fact that there are plenty of autistic adults.
  • Among the Amish who do not vaccinate, the rate of autism is strikingly low. – there are autistic Amish
  • Unused vaccines with a preservative level of Thimerosal, however, are considered hazardous waste because of their high mercury content. If not injected into patients, discarded vials of these mercury-preserved vaccines, therefore, must be disposed of in steel drums, by law. – this is not true – at all… you also don’t have to call a Hazmat team if you break an unused vaccine vial with thimerosal…
  • …instead of requiring immediate removal, the CDC allowed the pharmaceutical companies to save money by using up their inventories of mercury-containing vaccines. By 2003, the industry had finally used up stocks of thimerosal-containing vaccines and Thimerosal is no longer used in these three vaccines. – the only basis for this statement is that the last thimerosal containing DTaP, Hib, and hepatitis B vaccines expired in 2003, but it is important to keep in mind that most vaccines are used well before their expiration date. In fact, many doctors order vaccines every month, so as to not keep large supplies of vaccines in their office, and since thimerosal-free versions were already available, those likely would have been ordered.
  • The term “trace amounts” means less than 1 microgram (mcg). Thimerosal-containing flu shots contain what in biochemical terms is actually a massive dose of mercury: 25 mcg. – vaccines labeled as having a trace amount of thimerosal have less than or equal to 1mcg, while others are clearly labeled as having up to 25mcg.
  • Why do I call that massive? Because the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum exposure limits for methyl mercury is .1 microgram per 1 kilogram of bodyweight, which means a baby would have to weigh 550 pounds to safely absorb 25 micrograms of mercury. At these levels, a growing fetus in a mother receiving the flu shot could get up to a million times the EPA’s safe levels. – wait, what? First, that is the maximum recommended daily exposure limit based on the assumption that the exposure to mercury will continue for long periods of time. That’s not the case when a pregnant woman gets a one time flu shot. And it is the pregnant mother who is getting the flu shot, not the baby. Although some thimerosal will cross the placenta, it is still not in levels that will cause harm, so calling the dose massive ends up just being an obvious propaganda tool to scare folks.
The review, Thimerosal and Autism?, explains why autism and mercury poison really don't share symptoms.
The review, Thimerosal and Autism?, explains why autism and mercury poison really don’t share the same symptoms.
  • Autism and mercury poisoning have the same symptoms. – they don’t… In fact, there are many reports of epidemics of mercury poisoning throughout history that weren’t associated with autism, including in Minamata and Niigata, Japan, exposures from mercury in teething powders and worm medicines (pink disease), and food contamination in many countries.

“Yet mercury had long been the every-day treatment of infants at the time of teething in the form of teething powders.”

Ann Dally on The Rise and Fall of Pink Disease

Although it is hard to believe now, mercury wasn’t taken out of teething powders until 1957, after which time pink disease quickly disappeared. Why was mercury in teething powders in the first place? Unlike thimerosal in vaccines, I don’t think it was acting as a preservative, as it sounds like it was present in very high doses. So there was a lot of risk with no benefit.

Sounds like the opposite of what we had with thimerosal in vaccines – lots of benefit (vaccines didn’t get contaminated) with no risk.

But taking thimerosal out of vaccines was risk-free too, wasn’t it?

Nope. That’s another myth.

“Unfortunately, the precautions taken by the AAP and CDC calling for thimerosal removal from vaccines appears to have led to unintended risks. In particular, inappropriate recommendations by autism advocacy groups regarding treatment of autism (e.g., use of chelation) and avoidance of vaccines (e.g., influenza vaccine) may mislead parents to place children at unnecessary risks.”

Hurley et al on Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines and Autism: A Review of Recent Epidemiologic Studies

In addition to anti-vaccine folks continuing to push myths about thimerosal to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids, some missed out on getting vaccinated and caught life-threatening vaccine-preventable diseases.

What to Know About Thimerosal in Vaccines Myths

Don’t believe any of the myths about thimerosal in vaccines. Vaccines are safe and necessary.

More on Thimerosal in Vaccines Myths

Thimerosal Hype or Hazard

You know the story about vaccines and thimerosal, right?

Unfortunately for the movie Trace Amounts, simple calling something a fact doesn't make it a fact.
Unfortunately for the movie Trace Amounts, simple calling something a fact doesn’t make it a fact. In addition to mischaracterizing how the process started, they seem to think that kids have been getting exposed to even more mercury in vaccines today…

Are you sure?

Thimerosal Timeline

Although it was never actually linked to any significant side effects, as a “precautionary measure,” the AAP recommended that thimerosal (mercury) be removed from childhood vaccines in 1999.

That’s not when the hype over thimerosal started though.

A few years before that, in 1997, an amendment to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Modernization Act called on the FDA to compile a list of foods and drugs with added mercury.

“At the time the FDA Modernization Act was passed, it was recommended that infants receive 3 different vaccines that contained thimerosal: diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP), hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib). Infants who received all of these vaccines could have been exposed to a cumulative dose of mercury as high as 187.5 μg by 6 months of age. This value exceeded guidelines recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but did not exceed those recommended by the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR) or the FDA.”

Offit et al on Addressing Parents’ Concerns: Do Vaccines Contain Harmful Preservatives, Adjuvants, Additives, or Residuals?

And it was found that in some circumstances, infants could get 187.5 μg of mercury from vaccines by 6 months of age, which exceeded some, but not all regulatory guidelines.

Which regulatory guidelines?

  • EPA – 89 µg
  • ATSDR – 266 µg
  • FDA – 354 µg

That led to the recommendation from the AAP, in July 1999, to remove thimerosal from vaccines, including the hepatitis B, DTaP, and Hib vaccines, the only routinely used, non-flu vaccines that had ever had thimerosal. Specifically, the AAP asked vaccine manufacturers “for a clear commitment and a plan to eliminate or reduce as expeditiously as possible the mercury content of their vaccines.”

“There is a significant safety margin incorporated into all the acceptable mercury exposure limits. Furthermore, there are no data or evidence of any harm caused by the level of exposure that some children may have encountered in following the existing immunization schedule. Infants and children who have received thimerosal-containing vaccines do not need to be tested for mercury exposure.”

Notice to Readers: Thimerosal in Vaccines: A Joint Statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Public Health Service

It is important to note that thimerosal-free versions of the DTaP and Hib were already available at the time though.

So we had:

  • DTP vaccines – contained 25μg thimerosal, but had largely been replaced by DTaP vaccines at this point
  • Infanrix – a DTaP vaccine that never contained thimerosal since it was first approved in 1997 (most folks incorrectly state that Infanrix first contained trace amounts of thimerosal)
  • Tripedia – a DTaP vaccine that was first approved in 1992 and did contain 25μg thimerosal, a thimerosal-free formulation became available in March 2001 – it was discontinued in 2011
  • Acel-Imune – a DTaP vaccine that was approved in 1991 and did contain 25μg thimerosal, it was discontinued in 2001
  • Certiva – a DTaP vaccine that was approved in 1998 and did contain 25μg thimerosal, it was discontinued in 2000
  • TriHIBit – a DTaP/Hib combination vaccine that was approved in 1997 and did contain 25μg thimerosal, it was discontinued in 2011
  • Tetramune – a DTP/Hib combination vaccine that was approved in 19 and did contain 25μg thimerosal, it was later discontinued
  • OmniHib – a Hib vaccine that never contained thimerosal since it was approved in 1993
  • ActHIB – a Hib vaccine that never contained thimerosal since it was approved in 1993
  • ProHIBIT – the first Hib conjugate vaccine licensed in 1987, it contained 25μg thimerosal
  • PedvaxHIB – a Hib vaccine that never contained thimerosal since it was approved in 1989
  • HibTITER – a Hib vaccine that never contained thimerosal since it was approved in 1988, except in multidose vials (25μg thimerosal)
  • Comvax – a Hib/hepatitis B combination vaccine that never contained thimerosal
  • Recombivax HB – a hepatitis B vaccine  with 12.5μg  thimerosal that was approved in September 1983, but a thimerosal-free formulation became available in September 1999
  • Engerix B – a hepatitis B vaccine with 12.5μg  thimerosal that was approved in 1989, but a form with only a trace amount of thimerosal became available in March 2000, followed by a thimerosal-free formulation in January 2007

And of course, the other vaccines that younger kids got at the time never contained thimerosal, including hepatitis A, MMR, Varivax, polio, and Prevnar.

By January 2003, remaining stocks of vaccines with thimerosal expired.

Also in 2003, thimerosal-free flu vaccines became available, including thimerosal-free flu shots and FluMist, the nasal spray flu vaccine.

Thimerosal Hype or Hazard

So what was the big concern about thimerosal?

It wasn’t that infants were getting exposed to thimerosal in vaccines, but rather that they might get exposed to too much thimerosal.

Looking back at the available vaccines at the time, it is fairly obvious that most infants didn’t get that much thimerosal though, as there were already plenty of thimerosal-free versions of all routinely used vaccines. To get to the higher doses that some folks were concerned about, they would have to get the hepatitis B vaccine, plus thimerosal containing versions of both DTaP and Hib, and a flu shot.

Because young, otherwise healthy children are at increased risk for influenza-related hospitalization, influenza vaccination of healthy children aged 6-23 months is recommended.

Also, keep in mind that it wasn’t until 1991 that hepatitis B and Hib vaccines were added to the immunization schedule to be given to all infants.

And many kids didn’t get flu shots yet.

Remember, it was until the 2004-05 flu season that we started to see strong recommendations to give flu shots to anyone who wasn’t at high risk for complications from the flu. And by that time, thimerosal free flu shots were beginning to appear.

Still, the most important takeaway from all of this is that even though thimerosal was removed from vaccines, it was done as a precautionary measure and not because these kids were harmed. In fact, some kids were harmed in the process, especially as some infants didn’t get their newborn hepatitis B vaccine and at least one went on to get a fatal hepatitis B infection.

What to Know About Vaccines and Thimerosal

Even at the height of the thimerosal scare, most vaccines didn’t contain thimerosal.

More on Vaccines and Thimerosal

Why Does the FDA Warn About Mercury in Fish, but Not Mercury in Flu Shots?

The FDA and EPA began to warn certain high risk groups about eating fish that might be contaminated with high levels of mercury in 2004.

Although it was known that “nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury,” this wasn’t thought to be a health concern for most people. Higher levels of mercury in certain fish could be though, especially for young children, nursing mothers, pregnant women, and women who might become pregnant.

That’s why the EPA and FDA recommended that those high risk groups not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish (have highest levels of mercury) and limit eating other fish that are lower in mercury.

Why Does the FDA Warn About Mercury in Fish, but Not Mercury in Flu Shots?

So why do experts warn about mercury in fish, but don’t warn about mercury in vaccines?

Trace Amounts on “Ten Lies” Told About Mercury in Vaccines
Trace Amounts thinks that they have uncovered “Ten Lies” about mercury in vaccines

While that is a good question, the most obvious answer is that there are a very limited number of vaccines that you can get that contain any mercury (thimerosal), while if there was no warning, you could theoretically eat a ton of fish that are contaminated with at least some mercury.

And since 2001, thimerosal-free versions of non-flu vaccines have been available. There has also been an increasingly large supply of thimerosal-free flu vaccines available since 2003.

So how much mercury from vaccines could pregnant women and young children really be getting?

Remember, the only routine vaccines that pregnant women get are Tdap (never contained thimerosal) and the flu vaccine. And all of the routine vaccines young children receive are now thimerosal-free, including DTaP, Hib, IPV, Rotavirus, and Prevnar. All children should also get a flu vaccine once they are six months old, but like the flu vaccines for pregnant women, thimerosal-free flu vaccines are available.

Still, if they didn’t get a thimerosal-free flu shot, it would mean that they got the amount of mercury from one flu shot each year, or 25mcg. Some children could get up to 50mcg if it was their first season getting a flu vaccine, as they might need two doses of the flu vaccine.

The FDA and EPA offer very specific recommendations on how much fish to eat to avoid mercury.
The FDA and EPA offer very specific recommendations on how much fish to eat to avoid mercury.

How much mercury do you ingest when you eat fish? It depends on the fish, which is why the recommendations on which fish to eat and avoid are so specific. In general, it can range from 4mcg for salmon, 60mcg for canned albacore tuna and 170 mcg for swordfish.

While you are supposed to avoid the fish with the highest mercury levels, you might be eating the other fish each week, so unless you don’t like to eat fish, it is almost certainly going to quickly add up to much more than you get from your yearly flu vaccine, which you likely avoided anyway by getting a thimerosal-free flu shot.

And with fish, the mercury is in the form of methymercury, 95% of which is absorbed into your bloodstream. In contrast, thimerosal in vaccines breaks down to ethylmercury and is eliminated from your body quicker than methylmercury.

But if fish contains mercury, why not just tell people to avoid eating fish?

“Most fish are an excellent source of high quality protein. Fish are also important sources of selenium, zinc, iodine, iron, and other minerals needed by the body. Fish are natural sources of many B vitamins, and oily fish provide vitamins A and D. Studies with pregnant women have found that the nutritional benefits of fish, like other protein-rich foods, are important for their children’s growth and development during pregnancy and childhood. Most fish are low in fat, and most of the fat that is present in fish is healthy polyunsaturated fat. The polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are also present in many types of fish. Research is still underway to determine the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.”

Questions & Answers from the FDA/EPA Advice on What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know about Eating Fish

Fish have a lot of important nutrients, so are good to eat. So you balance the benefits of eating fish with the risks of mercury contamination and we get the sensible advice to limit the amount of fish you eat.

When you do the same kind of analysis of the risks and benefits of vaccines, even those with thimerosal, the benefits are still greatly in favor of getting vaccinated to prevent life-threatening infections. Remember, thimerosal was removed from vaccines as a precautionary measure and not because it was proven to be dangerous. In fact, many studies have shown that thimerosal in vaccines is not harmful.

What to Know About Mercury in Fish and Vaccines

Comparing mercury in fish and vaccines is like comparing conventionally grown apples and pears, at least it would be if someone figured out how to make an edible vaccine in the form of a pear.

More on Mercury in Fish and Vaccines

Doing the Math on Kennedy, Vaccines and Mercury

Although most anti-vaccine folks have moved on to aluminum by now, some are still sticking by thimerosal as their favorite “toxin” in vaccines to blame for causing so-called vaccine-induced diseases.

“Well, here are the numbers. And the numbers change every year. I think in 2012, there were 185 million doses of flu doses manufactured in this country. And I think fewer than 10 million were thimerosal-free. Over 90 percent had huge, huge doses of mercury.”

An interview with Robert Kennedy Jr. on vaccines

Really?

Huge, huge doses of mercury?

Thimerosal Timeline

Although it was never actually linked to any significant side effects, as a “precautionary measure,” the AAP recommended that thimerosal (mercury) be removed from childhood vaccines in 1999.

Thimerosal was removed from the hepatitis B, DTaP, and Hib vaccines, the only routinely used, non-flu vaccines that ever had thimerosal, in 2001. It is important to note that thimerosal-free versions of the DTaP and Hib vaccines were already available in the late 1990s though.

By January 2003, remaining stocks of vaccines with thimerosal expired.

Also in 2003, thimerosal-free flu vaccines became available, including thimerosal-free flu shots and FluMist, the nasal spray flu vaccine.

Doing the Math on Kennedy, Vaccines and Mercury

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr seems to get a lot of things wrong.

Is he right about the number of thimerosal-free flu vaccines in 2012?

Let’s do the math.

Ever since thimerosal-free flu vaccines became available in 2003, the supply has increased each year.

  • 2007-08: 112 million doses, with 10-12 million doses of thimerosal-free flu vaccine from Sanofi Pasteur, 7 million doses of thimerosal free FluMist, plus Afluria was thimerosal-free, and flu vaccines with trace thimerosal from Novartis and GSK
  • 2008-09: 110 million doses, with 50 million doses of thimerosal-free or preservative-free (trace thimerosal) influenza vaccine and only 25% infants and toddlers are fully vaccinated against flu
  • 2009-10: 114 million doses, with 50 million doses of thimerosal-free or preservative-free (trace thimerosal) influenza vaccine
  • 2010-11: 155 million doses, with 74 million doses of thimerosal-free or preservative-free (trace thimerosal) influenza vaccine
  • 2011-12: 132 million doses, with 79 million doses of thimerosal-free or preservative-free (trace thimerosal) influenza vaccine
  • 2012-13: 134 million doses, with 62 million doses of thimerosal-free or preservative-free (trace thimerosal) influenza vaccine, including 13 to 14 million doses of FluMist. While 76% of infants and toddlers were vaccinated, only 50% of pregnant women got a flu shot.
  • 2013-14: 134 million doses, with 62 million doses of thimerosal-free or preservative-free (trace thimerosal) influenza vaccine. 13 million doses of FluMist.
  • 2014-15: 147 million doses, with 98 million doses of thimerosal-free or preservative-free (trace thimerosal) influenza vaccine. 14 to 15 million doses of FluMist.
  • 2015-16: 146 million doses, with 116-118 million doses of thimerosal-free or preservative-free (trace thimerosal) influenza vaccine
  • 2016-17: 145 million doses, with 120 million doses of thimerosal-free or preservative-free (trace thimerosal) influenza vaccine
  • 2017-18: 155 million doses, with 130 million doses of thimerosal-free or preservative-free (trace thimerosal) influenza vaccine

So Kennedy was wildly wrong about the number of thimerosal-free flu vaccines that were available in 2012. And he is certainly wrong about the number of thimerosal-free flu vaccines that are available today.

“Over 90 percent had huge, huge doses of mercury. Not trace amounts as the industry likes to claim. Trace amounts means less than 1 microgram. They contain 25 micrograms, which is 25 times trace amount and over 100 times what EPA’s safe exposure levels are. … So today, in the last three or four years, that number has been reduced to 48 million.”
Which number has been reduced to 48 million?
“I believe this year there were 150, around 150 million flu doses manufactured and 48 million of those, or a third, were loaded with mercury.”

An interview with Robert Kennedy Jr. on vaccines

What about his theory about the way the “industry” uses the term trace amounts?

The thimerosal content of flu vaccines has always been clearly labeled, whether it is 25mcg, or less than 1mcg, a trace amount.
The thimerosal content of flu vaccines has always been clearly labeled, whether it is 25mcg, or less than 1mcg, a trace amount.

There has never been a conspiracy to hide the thimerosal content of flu shots or any other vaccines. Those with trace amounts of thimerosal clearly have less than or equal to 1mcg per dose. Others were either thimerosal free or contained a standard amount of thimerosal, 25mcg.

Not surprisingly, this isn’t the first time Kennedy has tried to mislead people about  vaccines.

“There is no question that meningococcal meningitis is a serious disease that can cause death and disability, but we need to ensure that the solution is not worse than the problem. There is every reason to believe that mandatory meningococcal B vaccines for every college student could kill more students than the disease they protect against. Before we relinquish our rights, pay millions and sicken students, we should do the math.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: Doing the math on meningitis vaccinations

A few years ago, Kennedy responded to a resolution that had been passed by the University of Colorado-Boulder student government about new meningococcal B vaccines.

Students at the University of Colorado Boulder passed a resolution supporting menB vaccines.
Students at the University of Colorado Boulder passed a resolution supporting MenB vaccines.

For some reason, he devoted a good deal of time talking about the “hefty mercury load” that kids could get from Menomune, a vaccine that doesn’t cover the meningococcal B strain and which has largely been replaced by the newer Menactra (2006) and Menveo (2010) vaccines. In fact, Menomune was discontinued last year.

What to Know About Robert F Kennedy, Jr

Kennedy seems to mislead people about thimerosal and vaccines at every opportunity he can.

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