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Despite warning, CDC won't urge mercury-free shot

Despite warning, CDC won't urge mercury-free shot
April 2, 2004, 12:06AM
Los Angeles Times
Source: Houston Chronicle

Hundreds of thousands of infants and toddlers who get flu shots starting this fall could be exposed to a mercury-laced preservative that has been all but eliminated from other pediatric vaccines due to health concerns.

Saying there is no proof of harm from exposure to the preservative thimerosal, officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed that they won't advise parents and doctors to choose a mercury-free version of the flu vaccine.

The CDC's decision, made despite pleas from parent activist groups and some experts, appears to be at odds with recent federal warnings about exposure to mercury, a potent neurotoxin, and with the government's successful effort to see mercury removed from other childhood vaccines.

If the CDC were to warn parents, demand for thimerosal-free shots would rise, possibly squeezing supplies.

CDC executives wouldn't discuss the decision, but said "available scientific evidence has not shown thimerosal-containing vaccines to be harmful."

The American Academy of Pediatrics, which has a membership of 57,000 physicians, is backing the CDC.

But the agency has come under blistering attack from some parent groups. By not advising parents and physicians, the government is "violating the precautionary principle which reminds doctors that, when in doubt, take an action which minimizes the risk of harm," said Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder of the National Vaccine Information Center, a parent group that promotes safer vaccines.

Rep. David Weldon, R-Fla., said he planned to introduce a bill to ban thimerosal in childhood vaccines.

The CDC's refusal to recommend mercury-free shots "is medical malpractice," Weldon said. A physician who has a young son, he said he wouldn't let the child have a mercury-containing shot.

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