Assembly Passes Bill To Ban Vaccines Containing Mercury for Pregnant Women, Young Children
The Assembly on Thursday voted 48-21 to approve a bill (AB 2943) that would ban pregnant women and children from receiving vaccines that contain a preservative made with ethyl mercury, the Los Angeles Times reports. The bill now goes for consideration to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), who has not yet taken a position on it. The bill is opposed by some members of the Schwarzenegger administration (Los Angeles Times, 8/27).
The bill, sponsored by Assembly member Fran Pavley (D-Woodland Hills), would prohibit doctors from administering a vaccine with more than trace amounts of thimerosal to pregnant women or children younger than age three (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 8/27). The bill also includes a provision that would allow state officials to waive the ban during a public health emergency, such as a flu vaccine shortage. AB 2943 would take effect in July 2006.
The U.S. Public Health Service and the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1999 began to advocate the elimination of thimerosal from vaccines because some infants who received them were exposed to mercury at levels that exceeded Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. In recent years, vaccine manufacturers voluntarily have eliminated the preservative or reduced it to trace levels in other routine pediatric vaccines.
Aventis-Pasteur and the California Conference of Local Health Officers, which represents the chief medical officers of the state's 58 counties, oppose the measure. Aventis has not eliminated the preservative and instead offers an influenza vaccine for children younger than age two that is available with or without thimerosal (California Healthline, 8/20).
The legislation "represents a compromise between concerned parents of autistic children and pediatric groups worried that a ban could drain available flu vaccines," the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 8/27). The bill also could "accelerate a national movement" to eliminate thimerosal from children's' vaccines, according to the Ventura County Star (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 8/26).
Aventis-Pasteur said in a statement, "We are encouraged that a significant number of members recognized that this bill could undermine public confidence in immunization and ultimately deprive children of access to needed influenza vaccine. We remain optimistic that the governor will recognize the importance of maintaining public confidence in vaccines and will not sign this legislation."
Chris Calvin, executive director for the American Academy of Pediatrics in California, said, "[APA] generally opposes state regulation of vaccine components. However, the bill as passed permits use of any needed vaccine under specified circumstances, including those with safe levels of thimerosal" (Sacramento Bee, 8/27).
Isaac Pessah, a molecular biologist and researcher for the University of California-Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, said, "One has to ask, is mercury a neuro-developmental toxicant? The answer is that clearly it is. Is thimerosal different from other mercury toxicant? The answer is no" (Ventura County Star, 8/26).