Almost 10 years ago the American medical community was rocked by the realization that millions of infants were being overloaded with mercury from childhood vaccinations. Medical policy-makers and vaccine manufacturers scrambled to remove mercury from vaccines, and by the end of 2002 mercury was a thing of the past. Or was it?
Mercury has now been removed from all vaccines except for some formulations of the flu vaccine (and some diphtheria-tetanus shots). But when you take your child in to the doctor’s office for the flu shot this year, there may not be any mercury-free flu shots left.
For the upcoming flu season, here are the brands your doctor can choose from:
- Fluvirin brand is approved for kids 4 years and older and adults. Mercury is used in manufacturing, but then filtered out.
- Fluarix and FluLaval are for adults only. Fluarix filters out the mercury too, but FluLaval contains the full dose of mercury (25 micrograms).
- Fluzone is the only brand that is used in infants age 6 to 35 months. The half-dose infant and toddler sindle-dose vials are mercury-free, but there isn’t enough to go around.
- Fluzone also makes a very small supply of mercury-free flu shots for older children and adults, so only the first kids in line will get one.
- Fluzone devotes most of their manufacturing facilities to making the full-dose mercury-containing large bottles of flu shots for all age groups.
Ask the nurse to physically show you the bottle as she prepares the shot. If it is Fluzone brand, and it is a small single-dose vial or a pre-filled single-dose syringe, then you can be sure it is mercury-free. If it is Fluvirin or Fluarix brand, then there is only a tiny, barely detectable, insignificant amount of mercury. If it is FluLaval brand, or the large 10-dose bottle of Fluzone, then just say no!
What should you do if the only thing your doctor has left are shots with the full dose of mercury? First, healthy kids 5 years and older don’t need a flu vaccine, but if you want one anyway, the nasal spray flu vaccine is mercury-free and was just approved for use down to age 2 years. Second, you can search elsewhere for any left-over mercury-free shots at other offices or clinics. Or you can simply decide to do without the flu vaccine for that year. This is especially true for pregnant women and young children. No one wants their developing fetus or infant to be exposed to mercury while their brain is developing.
Do you even have to worry about mercury in the first place? The debate rages on. Researchers battle back and forth over this issue. We’ve known for decades that mercury is toxic to the brain and body tissues. But whether or not the amount in vaccines is enough to cause damage is still up in the air. Some research shows there is enough evidence of harm; other studies have determined there is not enough proof that the mercury in vaccines is dangerous. No study, however, has yet to prove for certain that this mercury is safe.