November 2, 2005

Safe Minds on Flu Vaccines

SafeMinds Issues Urgent Warning on Risk to Pregnant Women, Children,Infants of Exposure to Mercury from Flu Shots; As Bird Flu Plan is Unveiled

WASHINGTON, Nov. 2 /U.S. Newswire/ -- As the flu season approaches and the Bush administration begins sharing details of their plan to prevent a possible avian flu pandemic, much emphasis is being placed on the idea that flu shots should be readily available and administered to large portions of the population. But lost in these numerous media reports is the danger posed by mercury found in a majority of annually administered flu vaccine preparations.

"Consumers are not aware of the fact that flu shots still contain thimerosal, a mercury based preservative recently phased out of most childhood vaccines," said Lyn Redwood, president of SafeMinds, a non- profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and conducting research into mercury exposure. Most alarming to Redwood is the fact that pregnant mothers and infants are now targeted to receive the annual flu vaccine when they are exactly the populations known to be most vulnerable to exposure to mercury. "We know from study after study that mercury rapidly crosses the placenta, enters the fetal brain and interrupts critical stages of development," said Redwood.

CDC's recently recommended exposure to mercury from flu vaccine comes despite the fact that one in every six women of childbearing already has blood levels of mercury high enough to harm their unborn children from environmental exposures. An EPA announcement came on the heels of a report, which found that the fetus actually accumulates mercury and typically has blood levels 70 percent higher than those found in the mother at the time of birth.

According to Mark Blaxill, director of SafeMinds, "Why on earth would the CDC on one hand recommend that pregnant mothers avoid environmental exposure to mercury from eating seafood, but on the other hand ignore the danger from mercury administered in vaccines when they know that an average flu vaccine exceeds EPA's safe level of daily mercury exposure in the average woman by four fold? By suggesting that a direct injection of ethyl mercury via a flu shot is harmless, and indeed by recommending that exposure, these policies defy not only sound medical practice but common sense."

"If you choose to be immunized against regular flu, you should know what benefits you're actually getting," continued Blaxill. "American consumers should make informed decisions about their health. Amidst rising fears over a theoretical avian flu pandemic, numerous health officials have tied the avian flu risk to the regular annual flu shot, but most people don't realize that the annual flu shot won't protect you against avian flu. In addition, pregnant women also should know that recent scientific studies show little support or benefit to them or to their fetus from a flu shot."

SafeMinds also expressed concern about the blanket protection from liability for vaccine manufacturers offered in Bush's flu pandemic plan.

"Any kind of blanket immunity will only take away incentives for producing safe products and inevitably, will set our country up for a bad outcome," continued Redwood. "Immunity from legal liability for injury will result in vaccines that are less safe, which in turn will cause declining public confidence in vaccines."

The claim that the threat of lawsuits has kept manufacturers from entering and staying in the vaccine business has long been touted as a reason for protecting the pharmeceutical industry. Language providing relief from liability for vaccine manufacturers has been introduced unsuccessfully over the past several years. Although supporters of these bills claimed that intervention is needed to address concerns over the vaccine supply, the past problems that occurred were a result of long overdue FDA enforcement actions concerning violations of good manufacturing practices and complacency on the part of the manufacturers for production and distribution of their products, not litigation.

As the avian flu scare becomes increasingly political, SafeMinds is urging consumers to take a critical view of the rising media hype. SafeMinds encourages doctors to educate themselves and their patients about the risks of mercury exposure before administering the flu vaccine and to recommend only mercury free vaccine products for their patients.

More information about SafeMinds (including neurodevelopmental disorders, autism and mercury exposure) may be found at or by calling Stephanie Morris at 202-628-7772.

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