Thimerosal and Newborn Hepatitis B Vaccine

"Protecting the health and informed consent rights of children since 1982."


Contact: Barbara Loe Fisher

For Immediate Release
July 8, 1999


Washington, D.C. - The National Vaccine Information Center NVIC), the oldest and largest organization in the U.S. representing vaccine consumers and parents of vaccine injured children, is calling July 7, 1999's joint statement issued by the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to eliminate the mercury content in hepatitis B vaccine and other childhood vaccines and to roll back the universal recommendation that all newborn infantsreceive hepatitis B vaccine at birth as an important step in improving the safety of childhood vaccines and vaccine policies.

The cumulative effects of ingesting mercury can cause brain damage. Thimerosol, a mercury compound, is used as a preservative in hepatitis B, diphtheria, pertussis and acellular pertussis, tetanus and HIB vaccines. Most infants have received a total of 15 doses of these mercury containing vaccines by age six months.

The surprise announcement late yesterday afternoon came just seven weeks after a May 18 hearing on the safety of hepatitis B vaccine and vaccine policies in the U.S. House subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources chaired by Congressman John Mica (R-FL). At the May 18 hearing, parents of children, who were injured or died from reactions to the hepatitis B vaccine, as well as scientists critical of hepatitis B vaccine policies, questioned the scientific evidence used to license the vaccine for use in all newborn infants born to hepatitis B negative mothers.

Prior to the hearing, NVIC co-founder and president Barbara Loe Fisher filed Freedom of Information Act requests with both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to obtain scientific data used by the FDA to license the hepatitis B vaccine for use in all children and by the CDC to recommend that all newborn infants receive the first dose in the newborn nursery at 12 hours of age.

"Eliminating mercury from childhood vaccines is an important safety initiative and we hope that further evaluation of the cumulative toxic effects of other vaccine ingredients, such as aluminum used as an adjuvant, will also be undertaken in compliance with the FDA Modernization Act of 1997," said Fisher. "Unfortunately, current CDC policies allow doctors to give young infants multiple vaccines simultaneously. There is a real question as to whether current stocks of childhood vaccines containing mercury should be used and whether vaccination of babies under six months of age with multiple vaccines containing mercury should be delayed. However, the CDC's decision, for whatever reason, to roll back the recommendation to vaccinate all newborn infants born to hepatitis B negative mothers and to delay the vaccination of premature or underweight infants is the right thing to do and will result in the deaths and injury of fewer babies." she said.

Michael Belkin, a New York City father and Wall Street financial advisor, whose newborn daughter, Lyla Rose, died in 1998 following a hepatitis B vaccination, called yesterday's action "a long overdue first step in reforming the unscientific, conflict-ridden bureaucracy that established the infant hepatitis B vaccination policy." Belkin, who is the director of NVIC's Hepatitis B Vaccine Project, told members of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) at a February 1999 meeting that "I hold each one of you who participated in the promulgation or perpetuation of that mandated newborn vaccination policy personally responsible for my daughter's death and the deaths and injuries of all the other beautiful, healthy babies who are victims of the hepatitis B vaccine."

At the May 18 congressional hearing, he criticized the CDC's policy of vaccinating newborn infants born to healthy mothers who are not infected with hepatitis B. The only newborn infants at risk for hepatitis B infection are those born to hepatitis B positive mothers. In a June 1999 hepatitis B study conducted in North Carolina, the hepatitis B seroprevalence rate in new mothers was found to be only 0.2 percent, 25 times less than the 5 per cent seroprevalence rate estimate for the US population used by the Centers for Disease Control to justify universal hepatitis B vaccination.

The National Vaccine Information Center, a non-profit organization founded in 1982 by parents of vaccine injured children, worked with Congress to develop the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (PL99-660) and played a leading role in obtaining a purified, less toxic pertussis vaccine for American babies, which was licensed by the FDA in 1996. The goal of the organization is to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education. For more information, access or call 703-938-0342.

The National Vaccine Information Center is a non-profit educational organization founded by parents of vaccine-injured children in 1982.

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