Hyderabad, Oct 29: Vaccine industry lobbyists have been bringing
pressure on the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to defer
its decision to ban use of mercury in vaccines. The UNEP has set
October-end as the deadline for prohibiting the use of mercury as a
preservative in vaccines meant for children and adults.
Many vaccines also contain aluminium slats and formaldehyde which
leads to synergistic toxicity, particularly in infants and children.
If the UNEP has its way, vaccines available all over the world
including India will be free of mercury, aluminium salts and
According to Dr Venkatesh Thuppil of the National Referral Centre for
Lead Poisoning in India, Bengaluru, use of mercury in vaccines is
highly toxic and is potentially dangerous particularly for pregnant
women and foetus/child. Dr Venkatesh, popularly known as the "lead man
of India" for his fight against the use of lead in paints, told this
correspondent that when autism was on rise the question doctors faced
with was whether uncontrolled use of mercury in vaccines was the cause.
"Some people with sensitivity to mercury are more vulnerable and may
react even to doses considered to be safe, less than 0.1mcg per kg of
body weight. This standard does not apply to children as Thiomersal,
the mercury containing preservative in vaccines, has never been
clinically tested on children," Dr Venkatesh warned.
The decision of the UNEP to ban mercury containing vaccines worldwide
has alarmed the vaccine industry and its lobbyists, who argue that
this would make vaccine unaffordable in poor countries and the move
will endanger the lives of children. The final decision will be taken
this month-end and the goal is to bring sufficient pressure on the
UNEP to help reverse the decision.
"It is difficult to understand the motive behind resisting the move to
remove mercury from vaccines used in developing countries where
children may be more at risk due to their low birth weight and
undernourished conditions. Each thiomersal containing vaccine contains
0.25mcg of mercury and more than one vaccine may be injected in one
visit," he added.
In developed countries like the USA, the percentage of mercury has
been reduced to 0.05 to 0.1 mcg per shot. But in India and other
developing countries, mercury continues to be used in relatively large
proportions in vaccines.