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Feature Stories

Use of Mercury in Flu Shots Declining

From Issue: Volume XX - Number 22

By Kirt Ramirez

The annual campaign that every American should get a flu shot is in full swing. Doctors push the vaccine onto patients and every drug store displays banners promoting the vaccine. But there are some things customers may not be aware of.

For the past two years the Beachcomber has reported on the use of mercury in vaccines. In the initial Sept. 10, 2010 article it was revealed that drug store pharmacies only carried flu shots containing the toxic metal and the only way to get a no-mercury shot then was to go to a medical doctor and request none.

All others received the standard flu shot from a multi-dose vial. The vials are like little jars that contain several doses of the vaccine.

Multi-dose vials are a cost-saver for vaccine manufacturers. For each patient, the nurse or technician pokes a syringe into the top and pulls out enough vaccine for the patient.

Since air enters the vial each time a needle pokes it, a preservative must exist in the vaccine to prevent bacterial and fungal contamination. Since the 1930s vaccine companies have added the hazardous compound ethylmercury to each vial since mercury is very good at killing things.

Each time a patient gets a flu shot – or any shot – from a multi-dose vial, the person also gets a whopping 25 micrograms of ethylmercury injected into the body through the preservative thimerosal.

About 10 doses come out of each multi-dose vial. The last dose can have a lot more preservative sediment in it than the other doses. The unlucky one who gets the 10th dose can get an even bigger dose of mercury, according to reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) swears there is no problem and defends the use of the poison. However, at the same time the agency is quietly providing more non-mercury shots now.

Last year was the first time ever that mercury-free shots began being offered in local drug store pharmacies and the Beachcomber reported on this Nov. 4, 2011.

Today more single shots are being used – which mostly do not contain preservative since they are used once and then thrown away. But multi-dose ones are still out there.

Thirteen pharmacists from Rite Aid, Albertsons Sav-on, Walgreens and CVS pharmacies were asked if they still use multi-dose vials and the responses were mixed. Rite-Aid appears to be the best in terms of using singles and avoiding multi-dose vials. The rest contacted were so-so or poor.

The best way to avoid mercury in the flu shot is to avoid getting a vaccine from a multi-dose vial. Ask for the “no preservative” “single” shot if you don’t want mercury. The only single that contains mercury is Fluvirin but all the other single doses do not.

A flu vaccine table showing all nine brands used in this country and which products contain mercury can be found on the CDC website at

The CDC said in 2010, “The majority of influenza vaccines distributed in the United States currently contain thimerosal as a preservative.” But today that statement has been scrubbed from the website. But again, multi-dose vials are still available.

Meanwhile, there is nothing good about having mercury in the body. It’s far worse than lead and can be toxic even in small doses. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers mercury a hazardous material.

Mercury is regarded as being the most toxic element on earth after plutonium.

All forms of mercury are toxic but some compounds are worse than others. Thimerosal contains 49 percent ethylmercury, a close relative of the better-known methylmercury – the type that is 100 times more toxic than basic elemental mercury and is found in fish nowadays due to industrial pollution.

The compound dimethylmercury is even more dangerous. Karen Wetterhahn, a researcher with Dartmouth College, died in 1997 of mercury poisoning about one year after spilling only a few drops of dimethylmercury on her latex glove.

Wetterhahn had trouble pronouncing her words and began losing her balance about six months after the accident, then went into a coma. Her death made headlines and startled the scientific community at the time, showing them how hazardous mercury can be.

Mehmet Oz, MD, of the program “Dr. Oz” said during a show that it takes the human body about six months to eliminate the methylmercury found in one can of tuna after eating it – if no other fish is eaten.

Dr. Oz said on his website in 2010, “When mercury gets into our bloodstream, it goes right to our brain and attacks our nervous system. Left untreated it can cause permanent neuropsychiatric brain damage, learning disorders in children, autoimmune disease and even heart problems,” according to

“Even if you don’t have these symptoms, mercury can still do you harm. It is the second most toxic agent next to plutonium, so experts recommend minimizing it as much as possible in your diet,” Dr. Oz adds.

According to a heavy metal handbook in the Long Beach City College library, introversion appears to be the most prominent feature in persons affected by mercury.

Other symptoms include apathy, forgetfulness, irritability, shyness, depression, confusion and lowered intelligence, as the metal is attracted to the brain and spinal cord. It can affect the thyroid, liver, gastrointestinal tract and other parts of the body as well.

Unlike other metals, mercury can negatively affect human tissues at a concentration of only a few parts per million, which is well-known in medical literature.

The government still says mercury vaccines are safe but other research says they are not. The same applies to “silver” amalgam dental fillings, which contain 50 percent pure elemental mercury and have been used since the 1800s – and are still used today contrary to popular belief.

The World Health Organization says silver fillings are the main source of mercury exposure for the general population, followed by fish.