Vaccine Law Takes Effect
A state law took effect on Saturday, effectively banning vaccines containing the preservative thimerosal from use in pregnant women and children younger than age three, the Sacramento Bee reports. The law is intended to reduce the risk of developing neurological disorders such as autism that some people say are linked to thimerosal exposure.
Trace amounts of thimerosal are permitted under the law.
To comply with the law, the state has ordered 50,000 doses of flu vaccine that do not include thimerosal for children ages one to three and 15,000 such doses for pregnant women.
Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Kim Belshé has issued a 12-month exception for the vaccination for Japanese encephalitis, saying that "the risks of fatal disease or brain injury far exceed any risk of mercury in the vaccine." A mercury-free substitute is not available.
California annually distributes about 32,000 doses of the three-dose Japanese encephalitis vaccine. Data indicating how many doses pregnant women and young children received is unavailable (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 7/4).