A bill requiring mercury-free vaccinations for children younger than 3 and for pregnant women needs only a signature from Gov. Matt Blunt to become law.
State Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, sponsored the bill, which requires removal of the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal from immunizations. She and others have cited the potential for the substance to cause autism or mercury poisoning in children.
Before approving the bill, legislators made several changes, changing the age requirement from 13 to 3 and removing a provision that would have allowed anyone to refuse shots containing the additive. Champion predicted the bill would not have made it past the governor’s desk with that provision included.
“I am pleased that through this legislation we are able to protect our youngest citizens and unborn children from any possible effects that mercury in immunizations might have on them,” Champion said.
Blunt has indicated he would not support the bill if it allowed adults to refuse immunizations containing mercury because it would hinder the government’s administration of mass immunizations during emergency outbreaks.
Lujene Clark of Carthage, whose 9-year-old son, Devon, suffered mercury poisoning from a flu shot, said she was happy to see the bill pass but still wants mercury to be removed from all shots.
“I’m very, very disappointed we couldn’t make it stronger,” Clark said. “I appreciate that it will protect a select few, but I won’t stop until it protects all children in Missouri.”
Thimerosal, which contains small amounts of mercury, was introduced in the 1930s and has been used in more than 30 vaccines. In July 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics and several vaccine manufactures decided the preservative should be reduced or eliminated from vaccines in hopes of reducing the risks associated with mercury exposure.
Missouri’s bill is similar to legislation passed by California and Iowa lawmakers and introduced in 14 other states.
Clark said that it is ridiculous that mercury remains present in some vaccines and that money is the primary concern of pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers of thimerosal.
“The retail price difference between a flu shot containing thimerosal and one without is $3.80. So for less than a price of a Happy Meal, we’re willing to put Missouri’s children at risk,” Clark said.
In 1985, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an article assessing the potential risks involved in using the preservative:
“At currently used concentrations, thimerosal is not an ideal preservative. However, because thimerosal is an organic mercurial compound, higher concentrations might reduce vaccine potency or pose a health hazard to recipients.”