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The State

Opposition to Mercury Ban Waning

A state Senate panel will vote on whether to make illegal the addition of a preservative in vaccines given to expectant mothers and infants.

June 23, 2004|Myron Levin | Times Staff Writer

That's because Aventis Pasteur Inc., the only maker of flu vaccines for infants 6 months through 23 months old, is marketing them in both single-dose thimerosal-free and multi-dose thimerosal-laced containers.

According to some estimates, making thimerosal-free vaccine results in the loss of as much as one-third of the vaccine volume, mainly because of spillage from filling single-dose containers. And while vaccine makers haven't publicly warned of supply problems, the academies of pediatrics and family physicians had raised the issue of shortages.

Eliminating thimerosal "would save everybody a big headache" by encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated, said Dr. Dean Blumberg, an associate professor of pediatrics at UC Davis, and chairman of the academy of pediatrics' committee on infectious disease in California.

But if there is not enough thimerosal-free vaccine, "California's children are going to be left out in the cold and unprotected from a potentially deadly disease," Blumberg said.

Pavley said that while doctors were raising the shortage issue, vaccine manufacturers "have not been involved in this at all."

Indeed, Aventis Pasteur is not opposing the bill or saying it won't be able to produce enough thimerosal-free vaccine by 2006.

"Aventis Pasteur has not taken a position on this specific bill," the company said in a statement. "However, in general, we oppose any legislation that would interfere with the public availability of FDA-approved vaccines and unnecessarily undermines public confidence in national vaccine policy."

On Tuesday, the academy of pediatrics said it would withdraw its opposition because Pavley had agreed to two changes -- a six-month delay in the start of the ban, from January to July 2006, and a provision for temporary waiver of the ban in case of a public health emergency.

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