Thimerosal and Flu Vaccine Safety

A brunette wearing a blue shirt and surgical mask gets a flu shot from a blonde RVNAhealth nurse who is wearing a purple shirt and a face mask

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August is a month of contrasting experiences — from final vacations and outdoor fun, to back-to-school shopping and planning for flu shots. Whether we like it or not, September is soon upon us and RVNAhealth is already busy preparing for the flu.

In the U.S., fewer than half of all adults get the flu shot each year. There are many reasons people opt out, but one common misconception is around thimerosal — a mercury-containing compound used as a preservative in multi-dose flu vaccines. While RVNAhealth only offers thimerosal-free single-dose flu and pneumonia vaccines, it is important to understand the facts about thimerosal safety.

Thimerosal is intended to prevent bacteria and fungus growth with the insertion of each new needle in multi-dose vials. The preservative, introduced nearly 100 years ago after tragic experiences with bacteria-contaminated multi-dose vials, has largely eliminated bacteria and fungi risk in vaccines. Single-dose vaccines inherently avoid this risk and do not need a preservative.

The small amount of thimerosal, when used, gets metabolized and clears out of the body within days. It should not be confused with methylmercury — the type of mercury found in certain seafood — which can be toxic at high levels and accumulates in the body for weeks. Leading health organizations around the world, include the CDC, FDA, and World Health Organization have proven thimerosal safe for decades. Regardless, to ease concerns for children, childhood vaccines in the U.S., except for flu vaccines from multi-dose vials, have been thimerosal-free for nearly 20 years.

While deemed safe, you can avoid thimerosal by requesting single-dose vaccines, if offered by your provider. RVNAhealth opts to offer only thimerosal-free single-dose flu and pneumonia shots. We want everyone to get protected during flu season and reduce concerns. Flu and pneumonia shots at RVNAhealth begin in September for both adults and children. Please visit our flu page for details or call us at 203-438-5555.

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