As I mentioned earlier this morning, I went to get my annual flu vaccine. It’s the least I can do to protect myself and to protect the immunosuppressed patients around me in a major cancer center. I was looking forward to cheekily asking the nurse administering the vaccine to make sure mine had thimerosal, but when I got to the part of the clinic where the flu vaccines were being administered I was in for a nasty surprise.
The first indication came when I had to fill out a form similar to last year’s form asking me if I had ever had a reaction to egg products or the seasonal influenza vaccine before. I say “similar” because the form was not the same. There was something missing. Last year, I distinctly remember being asked if I had ever had a reaction to thimerosal or mercury and seeing a notice that the flu vaccine I was about to receive contained thimerosal. This year, the question was conspicuously accident, and I began to wonder why.
Then I found out.
I was about to receive Glaxo-Smith-Kline’s Fluarix. I perused the information on one of the prefilled syringes lined up like so many logs at a mill, just waiting to be used. That the particular vaccine being used was distributed in pre-filled syringes made me worry; clearly these were not multi-dose vials. So after I got back to my office after having had the vaccine administered, I promptly went on the Internet and Googled Fluarix. What I found was highly disturbing:
FLUARIX is formulated without preservatives. FLUARIX does not contain thimerosal. Each 0.5-mL dose also contains octoxynol-10 (TRITONÂ® X-100) â¤0.085 mg, Î±-tocopheryl hydrogen succinate â¤0.1 mg, and polysorbate 80 (Tween 80) â¤0.415 mg. Each dose may also contain residual amounts of hydrocortisone â¤0.0016 mcg, gentamicin sulfate â¤0.15 mcg, ovalbumin â¤0.05 mcg, formaldehyde â¤5 mcg, and sodium deoxycholate â¤50 mcg from the manufacturing process.
Dammit! Where’s my thimerosal? I want my mercury! Those bastards! They’re actually giving out thimerosal-free influenza vaccine!