- Copyright © 2012, The American Academy of Pediatrics
Three commentaries and an AAP endorsement scheduled to appear in January Pediatrics and early released Dec. 17 address a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) proposal to completely eliminate mercury in all products and processes worldwide. Such a ban would mean thimerosal, which contains ethylmercury, could not be used in any vaccine products.
All of the articles note that thimerosal should be exempt from the treaty to avoid disrupting global immunization efforts.
Earlier this year, the Academy and others endorsed a recommendation by the World Health Organization’s (WHOs) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization that the preservative thimerosal be retained for use in the global vaccine supply. In resource-poor countries, various vaccines are delivered in more affordable multi-dose vials in which thimerosal is included. In the United States, thimerosal is found in one childhood influenza vaccine and in trace amounts in a few others as part of the manufacturing process.
Despite claims of anti-vaccine proponents who have erroneously linked thimerosal to autism, studies during the past 15 years have not shown any evidence of harm. Some of those activists confused ethylmercury with the dangerous neurotoxin methylmercury.
The WHO’s May 26 Weekly Epidemiological Record states that replacing thimerosal with an alternative preservative may affect the quality, safety and efficacy of vaccines. In addition, experts have noted that if thimerosal were eliminated, some vaccine products around the world would become unavailable. There could be serious disruptions to routine and mass immunization programs.
“As many as 84 million children globally are dependent on vaccines whose safe distribution requires availability of thimerosal as a preservative,” said Louis Z. Cooper, M.D., FAAP, an AAP past president (2001-’02) who works closely with the International Pediatric Association (IPA).
The IPA and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society also have endorsed SAGE’s recommendation.
The UNEP committee is scheduled to take up the matter again in January.
Read the AAP statement of endorsement, Recommendation of WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2012-2262.
The full recommendation can be found on pages 215-216 at www.who.int/wer/2012/wer8721.pdf.
The Pediatrics commentaries are as follows:
Global Vaccination Recommendations and Thimerosal, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2012-1760;
Ban on Thimerosal in Draft Treaty on Mercury: Why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Position in 2012 is So Important, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2012-1823; and
Global Justice and the Proposed Ban on Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2012-2976.
To access an article in July AAP News on the proposed ban, go to http://aapnews.aappublications.org/content/33/7/4.full.