Flu Vaccines Without Thimerosal

By Kristie Turck •  Published 09/30/08 •  3 min read

The season is upon us and if you haven’t already been affected by a cold or flu, that time is rapidly approaching.  The Center for Disease Control recommends all children aged 6 months to 18 years, elderly, health care workers and pregnant women get a flu vaccination to help control the spread of flu. Many people do get a flu shot each year either out of fear or just from a doctor recommendation.  But not everyone agrees it’s the best idea.

Some parents believe the flu shot is abused and a waste… stating that many people still get the flu after receiving it and believe the CDC made mistakes in past years, protecting people against the wrong strains of flu.  Further, with the mounting number of vaccinations children receive to protect them from various diseases, parents are hesitant to add another shot to the pile.

Another concern is the use of Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that has come to light in recent years with regard to brain function and in some cases Autism.  However, parents now have a choice in the matter.  Some Doctors are carrying a thimerosal-free vaccine.  From the L.A. Times:

Some vaccines are thimerosal-free or carry only trace amounts of thimerosal: one product licensed for use for children ages 6 to 35 months (Sanofi’s Fluzone single-dose pre-filled 0.25 mL syringe or vial) and three products for children ages 2 to 5 (Sanofi’s Fluzone single-dose; MedImmune’s FluMist and Novartis’ Fluvirin single-dose pre-filled 0.5 mL syringe, which is for people ages 4 and older.

Additionally, Deborah Kotz (usnews.com) posed a concerned question regarding pregnant women and the flu vaccine.

I’m particularly concerned about giving flu shots to pregnant women because no one has really identified the threshold dose for which thimerosal can become problematic for tiny fetuses. Certainly, the amount of mercury in a single flu shot is very small and most likely harmless. “It’s equivalent to the amount in a small can of tuna fish,” says Tom Clarkson, a mercury researcher at the University of Rochester. “Still, we know that high levels of mercury can affect cell division in the developing brain of a fetus, and no one can say with absolute certainty that there’s no risk.

In this scenario, if there is a mercury-free flu vaccine available it’s possible to err on the side of safety.  Whether you are on the side of full yearly vaccinations or not, you can decide what is right for you.  It’s nice to have options, isn’t it?

Sources and Further Reading:
Deborak Kotz:  An Option: Flu Vaccines Without Mercury-Based Thimerosal  U.S.News
L.A. Times: Flu Shots for Kids: Do They Help? Some Parents Say No