Essay on The Thimerosal Debate

Submitted By kelsiewasiluk
Words: 1544
Pages: 7

Imagine yourself, deep within the trenches of Europe during WWI. The screeching sounds of bombs flying and constant crackle of gunfire are permanently inscribed in your mind. It’s deep into summer and the heat is almost too much to bear. You, and the twelve other men crammed in your bunker, lacking basic hygiene, smell like a week old sweaty sock dipped in the permanent smell of iron. But it’s not bullets or shrapnel that they should fear, the close proximity and lack of hygiene equate to a breading ground for a virus that led to the death of millions. Of the American casualties during WW1, more than half of them were due to influenza. The 1918 influenza pandemic led to more deaths in one year than the Black Plague caused in five (web). It’s because of events like this that the vaccine for influenza was first introduced to soldiers, 25 years later, going to fight in WWII. It’s because of events like this that immunizations are so strongly pressed today. We want to prevent pandemics from happening and prevent unruly deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO), Center for Disease Control (CDC), US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, US Food and Drug Administration and US Environmental Protection Agency are all responsible for regulating vaccines and making sure they are okay for public use. In the early 2000’s, it came out in the media that many of the early vaccines given to children and adults contained a varied amount of mercury. People were outraged and scientist began studying the effects that mercury could have had and began developing a new preservative that didn’t contain mercury. The preservative found in vaccines that contained mercury was known as thiomersal or thimerosal. Eventually, a new synthetic preservative was discovered and took the place of thiomersal in many vaccines. But one vaccine that is very popular today still contains thiomersal, that being the influenza vaccine. Many are arguing that it should be replaced in order to protect the health of the young and elderly. Influenza vaccines are targeted at newborns and elderly because of their inability to fight off the virus. People argue that those are the age groups most directly affected by the mercury and therefor; they believe mercury should be removed from the vaccine. But I couldn’t disagree more. Thiomersal isn’t our enemy, the virus is. Without vaccines we would be in constant fear of deathly diseases and have no protection against those. In an article written by Dawn Prate entitled “The great thimerosal cover-up: Mercury, vaccines, autism and your child’s health” (2005) she goes into detail about the negative effects of thimerosal claiming it should be removed from all vaccines. Her reasoning behind this is that she believes thimerosal is only used to save the drug companies money, that it can lead to autism in children and can even lead to neurological disorders. She argues that the amount of mercury is ten times higher than EPA’s recommended amount. She also mentions how parent’s claim to see a change in their children after immunizations that eventually develops into autism. (Prate) But Prate fails to tell the other side of the story; that’s why I’m here. Thimerosal contains mercury. That’s a fact. But there’s more to it than just that. Yes, mercury is never something anyone would want to willingly inject into their body but the amount and what is injected along with it are factors that can easily sway people’s opinions on it. I personally believe mothers wanting an answer as to why their child developed autism blew the whole thimerosal debate out of proportion. Like I said before, thimerosal isn’t the enemy; the amount ingested is proven to not be enough to do harm, it also can’t be proven that it is a direct link to autism and claims that it does harm to organs are exaggerated to sway people in the way that is against thimerosal. Prate states, “Some vaccines, such as vaccines for hepatitis B, contained as much as 12.5