Subjects: Public health
In a recent survey, only 67% of US citizens said they believed the H1N1 vaccine is safe, and only 22% claimed they were “very” confident it is safe. Among the respondents who said they were not confident in its safety, only 6% planned to take the spike.
One concern about the injectible H1N1 vaccine is that it contains thimerosol, a mercury-based preservative that is also found in the MMR vaccine. Many believe thimerosol causes autism, although there is no scientific evidence to support this belief.
With H1N1 spreading rapidly and scary (though still relatively rare) reports of fatal complications in previously healthy individuals stricken with the infection, officials know it is critical to prove, if possible, that the vaccine is safe.
A report in Pediatrics has provided some heartening news in this regard, at least as it relates to thimerosol.
In the report, Michael Pichichero and colleagues from the Rochester General Research Institute measured mercury levels in the blood of the smallest children — low birth weight neonates and prematurely born babies after they received a thimerosol-containing vaccine.
They found blood mercury levels in these patients to be exceedingly low.
“We found that blood mercury levels before vaccination were often detectable…at a level similar to many children after the vaccination,” Pichichero said in a press release. After the babies were given vaccines containing thimerosol, “their blood levels of mercury did rise to very low levels and then fell rapidly to baseline levels by day ten after the vaccination.”
Thimerosol has been largely removed from vaccines in the US since 2001, so the study of 72 newborn infants was conducted at a hospital in Argentina. Argentina and many other countries purchase vaccines through sources supported by the WHO, which has rejected the assertion that thimerosol is unsafe in vaccines.
“The H1N1 vaccine is safe and should be given to those at risk as recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control,” concluded Pichichero.