Not everyone is convinced thimerosal is risk-free, though. Among them is Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center, a Virginia-based advocacy group
"If unused vials of thimerosal-containing vaccines must be disposed of as hazardous waste because of the mercury content, then why is the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocating that thimerosal-containing vaccines continue to be injected into children's bodies?" Fisher asked.
She added that U.S. health officials have not changed their stance regarding children here. "The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration have not rescinded the 1999 directive to the pharmaceutical industry to take thimerosal out of childhood vaccines," she said.
And it's unlikely that the agencies will, Orenstein said. "I don't see any reason that the U.S. would add thimerosal back into childhood vaccines," he said.
So whatever happens with the U.N. treaty, it probably won't affect routine childhood vaccinations in the United States. But, Orenstein noted, a global ban on thimerosal could conceivably be a problem in the event of an emergency, such as a flu pandemic. If Americans were suddenly clamoring for the flu vaccine, multi-dose vials would be the best way to get it out quickly.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about thimerosal in vaccines.
SOURCES: Walter Orenstein, M.D., Emory Vaccine Center, Atlanta; Paul Offit, M.D., chief, infectious diseases, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Michael Smith, M.D., assistant professor, pediatrics, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Kentucky; Barbara Loe Fisher, president, National Vaccine Information Center, Vienna, Va.; January 2013 Pediatrics
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