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Feature Stories

Flu Shot Dangers

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 23

by Kirt Ramirez

Melody Hansen, 45, a Long Beach-area resident, wanted to get a flu shot that did not contain the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal, but had a hard time.

Hansen went to a Rite-Aid and a CVS pharmacy in Long Beach and a Costco in Cypress, but they did not have mercury-free flu shots. Finally a Long Beach Walgreens had one left and a Target in Cerritos had five doses remaining. The mercury-free, single-dose versions were around $30. The mercury-containing, multi-dose ones were offered for as low as $15, Hansen said.

“I think it’s wrong for us to be discouraged from getting a flu shot because we’re afraid we’ll be poisoned,” Hansen said. “In order to protect ourselves from the flu, we shouldn’t be forced to take in a toxic heavy metal.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says mercury in the flu shot is safe, but Hansen and others are concerned about possible effects. “I prefer to be ultra-cautious and protect myself,” Hansen said.

The debate continues on whether or not mercury vaccines are dangerous. The government says they are not, while other research and people’s experiences suggest they are.

A few years ago a grandmother who received a mercury injection became dizzy, disoriented and quite ill for several days after a shot. From then on – at the advice of her grandson – she requested no-preservative, mercury-free vaccines and hasn’t had a reaction since.

Doctors and pharmacists still give mercury vaccines. They usually give the “safe” ones – if they have them in stock – upon request, as supplies are limited and often reserved for pregnant women. But most of the time the patient will receive the old-fashioned shot from a multi-dose vial, which contains the mercury preservative thimerosal.

The vials contain several doses of the vaccine. A 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 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.

About 10 doses come out of each multi-dose vial. The last dose can have more preservative sediment in it and the person who receives it can get an even bigger dose of mercury, according to reports.

For the past three years, the Beachcomber has reported on the use of mercury in vaccines. An initial Sept. 10, 2010 article revealed that local 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 one.

However, the year before last was the first time that mercury-free, single 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 but they remain limited.
Of the 13 trade names that offer flu vaccines, none of the single-dose, prefilled syringes contain mercury – except for Fluvirin – which only contains a trace amount. However, all of the multi-dose vials contain a substantial amount of ethylmercury. The 2013-2014 CDC chart for mercury content can be found at
A lot of pet vaccines contain thimerosal as well.

Meanwhile, mercury in general is a heavy metal considered 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. A researcher, Karen Wetterhahn, died in 1997 of mercury poisoning about one year after spilling only a few drops of dimethylmercury on her latex glove.

She 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.

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 added.

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

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

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

Reader Response

Thank you for publishing the "Flu Shot Dangers" story. I have always admired your independent voice and this story is a perfect example of that. Rather than parroting big Pharma's public relations sound bites, you have once again presented a balanced story that acknowledges both sides of this controversial issue.

Richard Koskela