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In years past, pregnancy was also a contraindication to flu vaccine but, today, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends flu vaccine for women more than 14 weeks pregnant.
Pregnant women should be aware that the flu vaccine contains Thimerosal, which is a mercury derivative. Mercury is toxic to the brain and has been found to be associated with brain damage and developmental delays in babies whose mothers were exposed to high levels of mercury during pregnancy.
In 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) directed the vaccine manufacturers to take mercury out of all childhood vaccines. In October 2001, the Institute of Medicine issued a report that said it is "biologically plausible" that mercury-containing vaccines could cause injury to the brain but there have been too few scientific studies conducted to prove conclusively that mercury in vaccines has caused brain damage."
Nevertheless, the Institute of Medicine recommended that drug companies take all mercury out of all vaccines and over-the-counter drugs.
`In compliance with this recommendation a preservative-free vaccine formulated for children ages 6 to 35 months, with only a trace amount of Thimerosal, is available in a limited amount. It is distinguished by a pink syringe plunger rod in the pre-filled syringe. Adult formulations still contain Thimerosal. The package inserts published by the flu vaccine manufacturers state that "Animal reproduction studies have not been conducted with influenza virus vaccine. It is also not known whether influenza virus vaccine can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman.
Although animal reproductive studies have not been conducted, the prescribing health care provider should be aware of the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The ACIP states that used during pregnancy, administration of influenza virus vaccine after 14 weeks of gestation may be preferable to avoid coincidental association of the vaccine with early pregnancy loss."
Is Flu Vaccine Recommended for Children?
One consideration with the mass use
of flu vaccine in healthy children is the removal of natural antibodies to flu which are obtained from natural infection. The question of whether it is better for healthy children, who rarely suffer complications from flu, to get the flu and develop permanent immunity to that flu strain or it is better for children to get vaccinated every year to try to suppress all flu infection in early childhood is a question that has yet to be adequately answered by medical science.