Mercury in vaccines
Mercury limits law temporarily suspended
Secretary of Health Mary Selecky has extended the temporary suspension of Washington’s limit on the amount of mercury (thimerosal) in influenza vaccine allowed for pregnant women and children younger than three years old. The suspension is extended through June 30, 2012. It applies only to 2011-2012 seasonal influenza vaccine in multi-dose vials.
Washington state law limits the amount of mercury that can be in vaccines for pregnant women and children under three. The secretary of health can suspend the law when there is a shortage of vaccine, which continues to be the case for certain groups of people during the upcoming flu season. The tip cap of the 2011-2012 single dose thimerosal-free flu vaccine that comes in pre-filled syringes may contain trace amounts of natural rubber latex. This means that children under three and pregnant women who have or may have latex allergies may be advised by their health care provider to not get the thimerosal-free single dose syringes. Supplies of other types of thimerosal-free flu vaccine are limited and can’t be used for all people.
Suspending the thimerosal limits law removes barriers so people can choose to be protected. Pregnant women and children under three are at high risk for serious complications if they get the flu. If a health care provider is concerned about patients in these groups having an allergic reaction to latex, this suspension allows providers and patients the opportunity to use other types of flu vaccine. Vaccination is voluntary, and we encourage people to talk to their health care provider about getting vaccinated.
When the mercury limits are suspended the law requires that certain groups be told they are getting a vaccine containing more mercury than is usually permitted. This notification requirement applies to pregnant or lactating women and parents or guardians of children under the age of 18 getting the vaccine. There is no single notification method required; the Department of Health has developed a sample notification form to help you with this. This and other related documents are available online (http://www.doh.wa.gov/cfh/Immunize/providers/flu-thimerosal.htm).
Janna Bardi, MPH
Manager, Immunization Program CHILD Profile
Washington State Department of Health
PO Box 47843
111 Israel Road SE
Olympia, WA 98504-7843