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Mercury-Based Preservative Now Allowed For Toddlers, Pregnant Women

The Missouri Department of Health has temporarily suspended a bill that prevents pregnant woman and children under the age of three from receiving H1N1 vaccines containing Thimerosal. KSMU’s Katie Easley spoke with a family physician and the head of the Springfield/Greene County Health Department and has this report.

Thimerosal is a mercury based preservative used in some vaccines. In the past there has been debate on how it affects pregnant women and children.

“The ban was there because at the time the evidence was not at all clear about thimerosal and its relationship to autism in kids,” says Shaaf.

That’s State Representative and family physician Rob Shaaf. Shaaf says he’s skeptical on whether or not thimerosal is safe for pregnant women and children.

“Our committees heard very compelling testimony from many parents who told stories about how their children had received immunizations and then almost immediately changed and were given the diagnoses of autism eventually. And so the legislatures took the step of saying it’s just too much of a serious potential problem to take any chances,” says Shaaf.

Shaaf says that since the ban, no data has proven thimerosal causes autism, but no data has proven it doesn’t either.

“I myself would be a little reticent to want to take mercury especially in a very little one but then you have to weigh that against the risk of dyeing from the H1N1 flu. And that can happen especially in young kids,” says Shaaf.

Margaret Donnelly, director of Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services, issued an exemption to the statute allowing woman and children to now choose whether they want a vaccine with mercury or not. Kevin Gibson is the director of the Springfield/Greene County Health Department. He says the current H1N1 pandemic and shortage of flu shots is the reason this bill has been suspended.

“I think that we know the true risk of women and small children getting influenza and we don’t know of any risks regarding preservatives, it’s just presumed, so I think it’s a good thing,” says Gibson.

Gibson says there are no restrictions for thimerosal by the FDA for children or pregnant women.

“I think it’s a personal choice. You can decide jointly with your physician whether you should wait for the thimerosal free, or you should go ahead and have the preservative containing vaccine if it’s available,” says Gibson.

Gibson says when the flu pandemic and H1N1 vaccine shortage is over the ban will go back into place and pregnant women and children under the age of three will no longer be able to receive vaccines containing thimerosal.

For KSMU News, I’m Katie Easley.