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Childhood Vaccines Safe, Review Shows

Dozens of Studies Show Thimerosal, Other Additives Don't Harm Kids

Red Wine and Antifreeze

Offit says the type of mercury used in thimerosal, known as ethyl mercury, is far safer than methyl mercury, the most common type of mercury found in the environment. The body eliminates ethyl mercury much more quickly than methyl mercury, with the former having a half-life of about seven days compared with 50 for methyl mercury.

He likens the difference in toxicity between the two to that of the alcohol found in red wine and the methyl alcohol found in antifreeze.

"If you drink [methyl] alcohol you can go blind, but that is not true of wine," he says.

Flu Shots for All?

In light of the flu outbreak, Offit says all parents should consider getting flu shots for their kids. But American Academy of Pediatrics spokeswoman Margaret Rennels, MD, says vaccination probably isn't necessary for all children and could lead to a serious shortage of vaccine. The AAP recommends flu shots for:

  • All children between the ages of 6 and 24 months
  • All family members and close contacts of children under the age of 2 years
  • All children with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, immune disorders, and kidney disorders

"Any parent who wishes to should seek vaccination for their children who don't fall into these categories," say's Rennels, who leads the AAP's committee on infectious diseases. "The vaccine is licensed for all age groups and there are no contraindications."

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