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Banning Thimerosal From Vaccines Could Hinder Achievements In Global Childhood Immunization

“Thanks to a herculean effort by health advocates, 78 percent of children in low-income countries receive the basic set of childhood vaccines, covering diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza,” a Bloomberg View editorial states. However, “[t]his campaign will be disrupted, and lives lost, if immunization critics win their latest battle for an international ban on a vaccine component” — thimerosal, a mercury-containing organic compound — “that has proved to be safe time and time again,” the editorial writes, noting, “Groups such as the Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs and the Coalition for SafeMinds are pressing their case before the United Nations Environmental Program [UNEP] meets on Jan. 13 to prepare a global treaty reducing mercury use.”

The editorial asks, “Why not be extra cautious and remove thimerosal from global vaccines, just as it was taken out of U.S. doses?” and writes, “The answer is, doing so would disrupt supplies and make vaccines lethally expensive.” The editorial notes, “Deployed in 120 countries to immunize 84 million children, vaccines containing thimerosal save the lives of an estimated 1.4 million people every year,” but “[h]igher costs would mean fewer children vaccinated.” Bloomberg concludes, “Vaccine critics have already invited the comeback of childhood disease in the U.S. by creating geographic clusters of unimmunized children. At the UNEP meeting, governments must stop this assault on progress by excluding [thimerosal] from any ban” (12/26).