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It's reckless to use thiomersal in the swine flu vaccine

Thiomersal is a preservative that is nearly 50% mercury and has been shown to cause cell damage in tissue culture at very low concentrations. It was originally contained in baby vaccines.

In the US, parental concern about the rise in autism, which appeared to parallel use of these vaccines, led to a paper by Sallie Bernard finding most vaccines contained levels of mercury greater than those decreed safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

An analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control found statistically significant associations between thiomersal exposure and speech delay, tics and attention deficit disorder.

After these revelations in 2001 the FDA removed thiomersal from vaccines in the US.

Subsequent documents uncovered using Freedom of Information legislation reported US Food and Drug Administration data from 1999 showing an 11-fold increase in autism at higher mercury doses.

In 2006, Geier and Geier published a paper showing falls in neurodevelopmental disorders in the US from the time thiomersal was removed from baby vaccines.

Thiomersal was later removed from baby vaccines in the UK after repeated and false reassurances about its safety.

So it is extraordinary that thiomersal has been included in the swine flu vaccine designed for use in children and in pregnancy.

Mercury is known to be passed across the placenta and a subgroup of children appears to be especially susceptible to its toxic effects.

I consider the inclusion of thiomersal in this vaccine to be reckless and unnecessary.

From Dr Jerry Thompson, Slough, Berkshire

Dr Pim Kon, medical director of GlaxoSmithKline, replies…

Pandemrix contains very low levels of thiomersal in the antigen vial. Thiomersal is a preservative containing ethyl mercury - which does not accumulate and is metabolised much faster than the more commonly occurring methyl mercury.

It has been used in vaccines for more than 60 years and plays an important role in preventing microbial contamination.

There is extensive research documenting its safety profile. In 2004, the European Medicines Agency reported on a number of well-designed population-based studies showing no association between thiomersal-containing vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.

The WHO's global advisory committee on vaccine safety concluded there is currently no evidence of mercury toxicity in infants, children or adults exposed to thiomersal.

Swine flu vaccine

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