Parents and health advocates are expressing outrage over the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) that pregnant women, infants and children continue to be exposed to mercury contained in the flu vaccine despite recommendations from the Institute of Medicine that mercury not be injected into these sensitive populations since 2001.

Dr. Jay Lieberman was assigned to present on "Thimerosal, Reviewing the Evidence." A plethora of peer-reviewed published data documenting the harmful effects of thimerosal on the immune, metabolic and nervous systems in humans and animals is widely available with a simple PubMed data search. But none of this information was mentioned by Dr. Lieberman. Instead, the discussion centered on epidemiological studies which have been highly criticized due to their inability to identify any such harmful associations. In fact, one such study presented by Dr. Lieberman was found by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in October of 2006 to contain several serious flaws that were "judged to reduce the usefulness of an ecologic study design using the VSD (Vaccine Safety Database) to address the potential association between thimerosal and the risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders."

Dr. Lieberman has been a consultant to Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, and Sanofi-Pasteur and is on the speakers' bureau for all three vaccine-makers, who have used, and currently use, thimerosal in their products. "We have been very concerned about Dr. Lieberman's conflicts of interest," commented Executive Director Rita Shreffler of NAA. Shreffler says that NAA requested that a counterpoint speaker without ties to drug companies be allowed to present current, peer-reviewed toxicological data and the request was denied. "To leave this presentation in the hands of those who have profited from, and continue to use thimerosal in some of their products is consistent with the CDC's history of concealing the consequences of injecting mercury into humans," said Shreffler.

While most routine childhood vaccines are currently available in mercury- free or reduced mercury versions, the majority of flu shots still contain 25 micrograms of mercury, an amount considered unsafe under government agency guidelines for anyone weighing less than 550 lbs. The CDC now recommends flu shots for pregnant women and children ages six months through five years. "It's obvious this committee's ties to the drug companies are dictating what will come to light regarding the use of mercury in vaccines," said Claire Bothwell, NAA board chair. "When it comes to discussing thimerosal, it's hard to tell where the pharmaceutical industry leaves off and where the CDC begins. The blurring of these lines is not in the best interests of public health."

National Autism Association