From the Desk of Dr. Michon Hawkins : Special Features :

Mercury in Vaccinations

In the Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kansas) of Thursday, February 10, 2005, the headline read MERCK KNEW SHOTS' MERCURY RISK. The article continued: "According to a 1991 memo, the drug maker's top executives were aware that vaccinations delivered big doses of mercury to infants."

Myron Lewin of the Los Angeles Times wrote: "A memo form Merck & Co. shows that nearly a decade before the first public disclosure, senior executives were concerned that infants were getting an elevated dose of mercury in vaccinations containing a widely used sterilizing agent.

"The March 1991 memo, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, said that six-month- old children who received their shots on schedule would get a mercury dose as much as 87 times higher than guidelines for the maximum daily consumption of mercury from fish.

" 'When viewed in this way, the mercury load appears rather large,' said the memo from Maurice Hillerian, an internationally renowned vaccinologist.

"The memo was prepared at a time when U.S. health authorities aggressively were expanding their immunization schedule by adding five new shots for children in their first six months. Many of these shots, as well as some previously included on the vaccine schedule, contained thimerosal, an antibacterial compound that is nearly 50 per cent ethyl mercury, a neurotoxin.

"Federal health officials disclosed for the first time in 1999 that many infants were being exposed to mercury above health guidelines through routine vaccinations. The announcement followed a review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that was described at the time as a first effort to assess the cumulative mercury dose.

"But the Merck memo shows that at least one major manufacturer was aware of the concern much earlier.

"Merck officials would not discuss the contents of the memo, citing pending litigation.

"The legacy of thimerosal, meanwhile, also is causing problems for Merck and other drug companies.

"More than 4,200 claims have been filed in a special federal tribunal, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, by parents asserting that their children suffered autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders from mercury in vaccines. A handful of similar claims are awaiting trial in civil courts.

"Thimerosal has been largely removed from pediatric vaccines in recent years in what health officials have described as a precautionary measure.

"For their part, Merck and other vaccine makers, along with many government health officials and scientists, say there is no credible evidence of harm from the amounts of mercury once widely present in kids' shots."

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