Tags: Vaccine | Controversy | Heating

Vaccine Controversy Heating Up

Monday, 10 April 2006 12:00 AM

The long-simmering controversy over mercury in children's vaccines is heating up, as lawmakers in a number of states press for bans.

The states are meeting with stiff resistance from the Centers for Disease Control and several influential medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.

At the heart of the controversy is thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that helps protect vaccines from contamination.

Thimerosal came into wide use in vaccines sold in multi-dose vials to prevent bacterial contamination from repeated insertion of needles. Exposure to the chemical rose sharply in the early 1990s when the CDC added five new shots for infants in their first six months.

The issue erupted in 1999 when it became public that infants who got all their shots on time could be exposed to mercury in excess of an Environmental Protection Agency guideline.

At that time the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics called on vaccine makers to phase out thimerosal and by 2002 it had been removed or cut to trace levels in all routine children's shots.

But then in 2004 flu vaccines containing thimerosal were added to the childhood immunization schedule and the CDC refused to recommend thimerosal-free shots for infants and pregnant women. This fired up the controversy once more.

Fearing a resurgence of thimerosal use — state lawmakers and anti-mercury advocates began pushing for outright bans of the chemical.

So far, seven states have adopted such bills — California being one of the first. Passed in 2004, the California law aims to ban shots with more than a trace of thimerosal for pregnant women and children younger than 3. It goes into effect this July.

Similar legislation is in the works in about 20 other states.

"We're trying to get it out of the environment," said Marilyn Rasmussen, a Washington state senator and sponsor of a thimerosal bill that was signed into law last month.

"Why would we be injecting it into babies? We've got to be smarter than that."

The legislation faces opposition from groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Immunization Action Coalition, who say there is no solid proof that the small amount of mercury in vaccines can cause harm.

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The long-simmering controversy over mercury in children's vaccines is heating up, as lawmakers in a number of states press for bans. The states are meeting with stiff resistance from the Centers for Disease Control and several influential medical groups, including the...
Vaccine,Controversy,Heating
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2006-00-10
Monday, 10 April 2006 12:00 AM
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