Friday, December 16, 2005

A note on flu shots

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:42 AM |  

The availability problems mentioned in the article relate to the Miami area. The other information is right on the mark. Note, that the author is NOT anti-vaccine and NOT recommending that people forego flu shots.

Mercury-free flu shots are now available for children
RICHARD HARKNESS Knight Ridder Newspapers

A recent letter-to-the-editor in the Washington Times said that a 6-month-old baby getting a flu shot would be receiving 12.5 mcg of mercury. Is this true?

The heavy metal mercury is neurotoxic at certain levels. Some kids may have an inborn vulnerability to mercury toxicity.

What the letter-writer said would be true only if the baby received the flu shot from the multi-dose vial, which contains thimerosal, an ethylmercury-based preservative.

In this case, the pediatric dose (0.25 ml) would contain 12.5 mcg of mercury and the adult dose (0.5 ml) would contain 25 mcg of mercury.

However, Sanofi-Aventis makes a mercury-free version of its Fluzone, the most commonly used flu vaccine in the U.S. It comes in single-use, prefilled syringes in either the pediatric dose (for those 6-35 months old) or the adult dose (for adults and children 3 years and older).

But there may be a potential catch with the pediatric dose. A source informs me that the parent or caregiver may need to specifically request the mercury-free vaccine. If not, the shot-giver may draw the dose from the aforementioned multi-dose vial instead of using the pediatric prefilled syringe.

The solution is to request the mercury-free vaccine, specifically the pediatric-dose prefilled syringe (it has a pink plunger rod). (Don't assume your shot-giver is informed about the mercury content of the vaccines. Mine was under the mistaken impression that this season's multi-dose vial was mercury-free.)

Though the pediatric prefilled syringe seems to be readily available, readers say they're having trouble finding the mercury-free adult-dose prefilled syringe.

Apparently, many providers, including county health departments, do not have these on hand. One pregnant woman said it took her four days to locate a provider who did.

Chiron and GlaxoSmithKline make adult-dose prefilled syringes with only a trace amount of mercury (Fluvirin, Fluarix), but these vaccines also seem to be out of the loop.

It might be just a temporary shortage problem. However, if these adult-dose prefilled syringes are available, providers ought to be stocking them as an option for those concerned about mercury.

In the meantime, a mercury-free workaround might be to administer two pediatric-dose prefilled syringes. That's equivalent to one adult dose. The flu season typically peaks in February and March, so there's still time get vaccinated.

Category: Thimerosal, Vaccines