September 25, 2009

Washington St. lifts H1N1 mercury limit

Washington state, in preparation for H1N1 vaccinations, says it is lifting limits on mercury in vaccines given to pregnant woman and children under age 3.

The mercury is in a vaccine preservative called thimerosal, which has been eliminated from most vaccines in the United States but is being used in most of the H1N1 vaccine to be distributed beginning in October, The Seattle Times reported Friday.

Thimerosal has not been connected to health problems, but a vocal minority who believe it could be linked to autism convinced the state's Legislature to adopt limits on it in 2006, The Times reported.

Temporarily lifting the mercury limits will give pregnant women and children under 3 quicker access to the H1N1 vaccine, Washington Secretary of Health Mary Selecky told the Times.

It's vital that everyone in a high-risk group has the choice to be vaccinated when swine-flu vaccine becomes available, Selecky said.

About 15 percent of the H1N1 vaccine will be mercury-free but may not be available immediately, she said.