Letters to the editor: March 5, 2007

March 5, 2007

While I respect Greg Powell's opinion about the link between mercury and Alzheimer's disease (Viewpoint, Jan. 22), I worry that his rhetoric will further feed the anti-vaccine frenzy, particularly among parents who want to blame autism on vaccines, i.e., thimerosal, and refuse to have their children or themselves vaccinated.

This is especially important, since the best way to prevent the spread of the flu is by vaccinating all employees, including pregnant women, as per recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention-even more than our patients-since it has been shown to reduce the spread of the disease.

Plus, the drive to remove thimerosal from all vaccines was started quite a while ago, and with the exception of influenza multidose vials, we are almost there.

Mercury is a naturally occurring element in the environment and is also released into the air through industrial pollution. Mercury that falls from the air can accumulate in streams and oceans. Bacteria in the water cause chemical changes that transform mercury into methyl mercury. Fish absorb the methyl mercury as they feed in these waters. Methyl mercury builds up more in some fish than others, depending on what they eat, how long they live, and how high up they are in the food chain. Fish and shellfish are the main sources of mercury exposure for humans, and that mercury is in the form of methyl mercury.

Other forms of mercury, such as that in dental amalgams, are minor contributors to human mercury exposure.

To also correct Mr. Powell, prefilled syringes of influenza are not preservative-free. For example, Fluarix by GSK contains thimerosal. Fluarix's package insert states that "Thimerosal is used at the early stages of manufacture and is removed by subsequent purification steps to a trace amount."

So, again, while I respect Mr. Powell's opinion, I believe that we, as a society, are better served by being vaccinated than not.

Rosario (Russ) J. Lazzaro, MS, RP
Holy Name Hospital
Director of Pharmacy Services
Teaneck, N.J.
lazzaro@mail.holyname.org

Response from author, Greg Powell: Upon reading Mr. Lazzaro's response to my article, I was astonished by his assertions and his inaccuracies. I'm perplexed to hear that Mr. Lazzaro finds my article to be "anti-vaccine." I don't remember writing anything of the sort. I believe we need vaccines, but I don't believe we need the mercury. My goal was to educate pharmacists and patients about the dangers and sources of mercury and propose the theory that cumulative mercury exposure may cause or exacerbate Alzheimer's disease. If Mr. Lazzaro is concerned that patients won't get their flu shot if they find out it contains mercury, then why doesn't he blame the FDA and CDC for allowing it to remain in the flu vaccine?

People have a right to know that their vaccinations contain mercury, and they should be allowed to make up their own minds about whether or not to be vaccinated. It is called informed consent. A recent poll found that 76% of the population is unaware that the vast majority of flu shots contain mercury. The link to that survey is: http:// http://www.putchildrenfirst.org/media/f.6.pdf.