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Autism Vaccine Myth Busting: Thimerosal Is Still Used In Vaccines

Posted Mar 01 2010 1:33am
One of the myths pushed in the mainstream media is that thimerosal, the mercury preservative used in vaccines, has been removed from vaccines.  That position simply is not true. 

The recent H1N1 panic showed that health authorities and pharmaceuticals still push vaccines containing thimerosal when it suits them.  The Ipswich Massachusetts Chronicle web site on  February 2, 2010 advertised immunization clinics for February 16 and 25, 2010 for thimerosal containing H1N1 shots:

"Only the injectable (shot) form of the H1N1 influenza vaccine will be used.

Participants should wear a shirt with loose0fitting sleeves or short sleeves to the clinic since the injection will be given in the upper arm.

Just like the seasonal flu vaccine, many formulations of the H1N1 vaccine contain a preservative called thimerosal. The vaccine that will be used at the clinic contains thimerosal."

Here in New Brunswick Canada the H1N1 (Swine Flu) vaccine also contained thimerosal and adjuvants and which were declared safe by our provincial health authorities as reflected in this   October 8, 2009 NB government news release . Of particular note, our provincial health authorities declared that thimerosal does not cause autism and is safe to give to pregnant women, one of the high priority groups targeted to receive the H1N1 shot during the fall H1N1 Pandemic/Panic:

  • There have also been reports and public speculation about the safety of the H1N1 vaccine. The contents of the H1N1 vaccine will protect against contracting H1N1. The included additives and preservatives are there to help the vaccine work, and are not cause for alarm.
  • As a multi-dose vaccine, the H1N1 influenza vaccine will contain a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal to prevent contamination of the vaccine by serious infectious agents from the growth of bacteria. Thimerosal also has a stabilizing effect on the vaccine, ensuring its effectiveness.
  • The seasonal flu vaccine and most hepatitis B vaccines are also multi-dose vaccines, and thimerosal is added during the manufacturing process to maintain sterility of the vaccine.
  • There is no safety reason to avoid using vaccines containing thimerosal. The best available scientific evidence to date shows no link between vaccines containing thimerosal and any adverse health condition, including neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
  • The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has reviewed the safety of thimerosal and concluded that, "There is no legitimate safety reason to avoid the use of thimerosal-containing products for children or older individuals, including pregnant women." International bodies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, share this opinion.
  • Most of the H1N1 vaccine available in New Brunswick will also contain an adjuvant. An adjuvant is a substance that is added to a vaccine in order to boost an individual's immune response. It also means that less of the virus, or antigen, is needed to make a dose of the vaccine. Unadjuvanted vaccine has no booster element, and more antigen is needed to create this kind of vaccine.
  • By developing an adjuvanted vaccine, Canada has used less of the virus material (antigen), allowing us to immunize more people in a timely manner.
  • Adjuvants are not new. Many commonly used vaccines in Canada contain an adjuvant. Adjuvants have been used for several decades to boost immune response to vaccines. However, adjuvants have not previously been used with influenza vaccines in Canada.
  • The WHO has indicated that it has no special concerns about the safety of adjuvanted H1N1 vaccines in general.

The WHO is now under scrutiny for its role in pushing the H1N1 panic button.  And not everyone shares our NB officials' unquestioning faith  that thimerosal does not play a role in causing autism particularly when given to pregnant women.  Dr. Bernadine Healy, a highly respected former US National Institutes of Health Director has stated several times that the issue of a thimerosal autism connection is still an open question. She has made particular reference to the possible effect of the mercury preservative thimerosal o the fetuses of pregnant women
"thimerosal crosses the placenta, and pregnant women are advised to get flu shots, which often contain it. Studies in mice suggest that genetic variation influences brain sensitivity to the toxic effects of mercury. And a primate study designed to mimic vaccination in infants reported in 2005 that thimerosal may clear from the blood in a matter of days but leaves inorganic mercury behind in the brain."

Former NIH Director Dr. Healy's concerns do not appear to have been taken seriously by public health authorities during the great H1N1 Swine Flu scare of 2009.

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