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Proposed ban on vaccine preservative could have devastating consequences

December 20, 2012

There is a lot of fear and misinformation out there concerning vaccines. A British study, that has now be shown to be fraudulent, found that there were a link between vaccines and autism. Even though the study has since been withdrawn, the fear persists. Many across the United States and Europe, still believing this link exists and believing that vaccines cause other problems as well, keep their kids from getting any vaccines. These parents alleged that it was the ingredient, Thimerosal, that caused autism and fought to get its use banned. At the time, experts weren’t certain, but believing that kids might be getting a higher dose of mercury than recommended by the EPA, they erred on the side of caution and had Thimerosal banned.

What exactly does Thimerosal do? It is a preservative that keeps the vaccines from going bad. This is not a huge deal in the United States where we usually use single dose vials, which do not require refrigeration, however this is necessary ingredient for vaccines in the developing world where they still use multi-dose vials since they are cheaper and refrigeration is not abundant.

So what is the issue? Until now, Thimerosal has only been banned in the US and Europe, but the UN Environmental Program is debating putting a full ban on its use.

NPR recently did a segment on it and interviewed Dr. Walter Orenstein of the Emory Vaccine Center at Emory University:

The proposed ban is part of a larger effort to reduce exposure to mercury, which can affect brain development. And public health experts strongly support most aspects of that effort, Orenstein says.

“But when it comes to thimerosal in vaccines, the benefits far outweigh any risks,” he says, adding that a ban could mean the return of diseases that used to kill millions of children each year in developing countries.

…”At the time, we just didn’t know what the toxic effects might be or might not be,” he says. “And one of our concerns was, what if we did the studies and three years later found there was harm?”

The studies showed just the opposite, though. And scientists also determined that the form of ethyl mercury in thimerosal is far less dangerous than methyl mercury, the form found in seafood. So the EPA exposure limits didn’t really apply.

But groups opposed to thimerosal say they’re not convinced by the studies. And they say it’s wrong to give the preservative to children in developing countries, but not to children in the U.S. and Europe.

The unfounded fears of a few may end up causing the unnecessary death of millions of children. This is not acceptable.

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