Coffee House

The flu jab choice the Department of Health might not tell you about

17 August 2009

4:48 PM

17 August 2009

4:48 PM

Which flu jab would you like this season – the one with mercury, or without? It’s a question you’re unlikely to be asked when the NHS vaccination programme gets underway in October but there actually is a choice. One swine flu vaccine ordered by the government, Panderix, contains thimerosal, a preservative which is 49.6% mercury by weight. The other swine flu jab, Celvapan, is mercury-free.

I found this out by calling the Department of Health on a hunch. When governments order vaccines, and have no intention of telling patients what’s in the mix, they tend to go for the bulk cheap ones. These often contain thimerosal. But the use of mercury in vaccines is far from uncontroversial. A few years ago, class action by American parents of autistic children was brought (unsuccessfully) against the makers of thimerosal. They suspected that mercury, a proven neurotoxin, could have impaired the mental development of their children given its presence in child vaccines. These controversies seldom kick off in Britain because parents are told nothing about the vaccines.


Andy Burnham said last week that his department intends to "target" 500,000 pregnant women when it starts its vaccination programme. Now, NHS24 has plenty to say about pregnant women and mercury. It advises them that mercury "can have a damaging effect on your baby’s developing nervous system" and that pregnant women had best avoid swordfish because it contains "a high level of mercury". By  “high” it means that swordfish is a millionth mercury – one “part per million” is mercury." So why should pregnant women – who are advised to take a swine flu jab – inject themselves with the very stuff that the government considers it is prudent for them to avoid? Why not advise them to take the mercury-free jab? Or at least explain the risks and give them the choice?

The Department of Health tells me “we won’t be advising against pregnant women using it as there is no reason to”. Its standard line (see it in full here) is that “there is no evidence” that mercury (at the levels that exist in thimerosal vaccines) is harmful. This is stating the obvious: if there were evidence of neurological damage – be it Alzheimer’s in the elderly or autism in children – it would be a scandal of Thalidomide proportions. But the Department of Health has for the last few years been phasing thimerosal out of the DTP baby vaccines. Why might it do that, you may ask, if it is so confident that thimerosal was doing no harm?

I suspect that the Department will have to rethink its decision not to tell pregnant women about Panderix (also called Prepandrix) and mercury. The era of the expert patient is upon us. Doctors have to explain themselves, their products, their prescriptions. They can’t really say “the man in Whitehall knows best, you may feel a little prick”. I’d argue they do have a duty to tell an inquisitive patient what’s in the mix. That patient may very well be nervous about mercury, perhaps noting that no-one in the UK government will actually say it is safe (they say there’s no evidence of harm, a crucial difference, and officials are very careful not to go any further).

The use of mercury in medicine is a deeply controversial subject, and one that may divide CoffeeHousers too. In recent years, there have been several studies into thimerosal – all of which have been unable to find evidence of harm. But the overall guidance from most Western governments is quite simple: if you can avoid mercury, do so. The NHS has two swine flu vaccines. It should give everyone, especially pregnant women, the choice of staying mercury free.

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Show comments
  • patricia

    I had the flu jab last week the dr thinks it will help because my immune system is shot!! with other things i have wrong with me
    since i had this flu jab i have been really ill coughing really bad mucus out really run down worse than i was before even though i am on 6 steroids a day i will refuse next time they want to give me any kind of flu injection no way do i want this again

  • Deb

    2 ppb of mercury is considered safe in drinking water
    200 ppb is toxic
    25,000 ppb is used in child vaccines
    50,000 ppb is used in alult vaccines
    When aluminium, often used in vaccines, is added this makes the mix 100 times more toxic/deadly.
    Oestrogen (which females obviously have more of) offers alot of protection from this kind of heavy metal poisoning.
    Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed as autistic than girls.

  • Al

    There’s been a lot of publicity lately about mercury and autism. I’ve met people who are weary of childhood vaccinations. Is there a evidence-based medical study linking autisim to mercury of is it just a theory? I’d rather battle the flu or bronchitis
    than worry about life-altering side effects of a vaccine.

  • RobertRedfern

    Lets get a few bits of science in the mix:
    Mercury in tuna will not readily absorb into the blood via the digestive tract as the digestive tract was not designed to absorb inorganic substances.
    Pumping mercury directly into the bloodstream via a needle does absorb and accumulate.
    There are no peer reviewed independent studies showing that flu vaccines work.
    The rest is just ballyhoo opinion. In the battle between science and profit then profit always wins.

  • Sarah Jo

    I was advised to stay away from eating fish which may contain high levels of mercury,as a women who is 7 weeks pregnant. But was advised that although i am a healthy woman who hasn’t even had a cold this year, i should have the flu jab.I am glad that i have done my own research and found that most of the (cheaper) flu vaccinations have high levels of mercury in them. I declined my doctors offer, as i believe they don’t tell you what is in vaccinations nowadays. Thank god i didn’t and my suspicions were right. nothing makes sense nowadays, and we are decieved so easily by governments and drug companies.

  • Eric Rowland

    I agree totally with Fraser on this matter. When I learn of WHO scientists being rewarded by the pharmaceutical industry for promoting the existence of the swine-flu pandemic, then I feel that people have a right to be cautious.
    Personally, I take 10,000 IUs of vitamin D3, daily, at a cost of around £25 a year. I retired last year at the age of 75, fit as a fiddle.
    Significantly, you don’t see the medical profession promoting vitamin D. No money in it for them.
    No jabs for me, thank you.

  • andrew watson

    has anyone had the flu, Iam not talking the average cold, but real flu,the one that kills at least, er er er 200 people a year in the uk , more people die of falling out of bed, the only reason its given is you cant make it an excuse for a day or to off work, ow boss i cant come to work this week i have the flu, I never had the jab and i have never had the flu, but it does not stop me from taking a sicky ,,,no jabs for all

  • Amanda Nillson

    I can’t actually understand how the vaccination can contain mercury at all. It is highly dangerous for human bodies and it is really strange that we are healing flu with mercury. Remember one important detail: the mortality rate of simple flu is even bigger than h1n1. I mean there is no need to panic here. Moreover those vaccinations can have some real consequences if mix up with some medications. So if you are using some sort of pills, from diabetes for example, be careful. You can read more about this interaction in this article Diabecon and Microalbuminuria. Just be careful and always consult your private doctor before taking any sort of vaccinations, moreover if they contain mercury.

  • Jennifer Hickson

    Thanks for the interesting and I must say definitely useful article. I am reading about this issue for the first time in my life. I have never thought that flu vaccine can have mercury inside of it. It is so creepy… Mercury is a highly dangerous stuff and doctors are pumping it inside our bodies? I can’t believe it. Moreover I can’t believe that this is an initiative from our government. Everything is being done cheaper. They don’t mind if it is nice for our health or not – the most important thing that it is cheap. Of course our country must save money in the period of crisis – but not on our health. Few months ago I have felt some flu symptoms and decided to get a swine flu shot. I am wondering now if it was with mercury or not. I will ask my doctor if it was thimerosal in it or not. Of course if he will tell me that… However thanks one more time for the useful article and keep them coming in the nearest future too.