Our newest Canadian import: flu vaccine scaremongering

The Agora Cosmopolitan, a.k.a. The Canadian, has a piece up about the flu vaccine that gets pretty much everything about them wrong. It’s no surprise, mind you, considering the article is copied wholesale, verbatim, in its entirety, from a crank website that it links at the bottom of the page as the “internet site reference”. Lazy beggars. They begin:

Thimerosal is a widely used vaccine preservative that is present in the majority of flu shots and other vaccines. Thimerosal is 49% mercury by volume, an extremely toxic chemical element that wreaks havoc on the nervous system, neurological function, and overall biological function [1]. Each dose of flu vaccine contains around 25 micrograms of thimerosal, over 250 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety limit of exposure.

Wrong, straight out of the gate. Thimerosal is no longer used in pretty well any vaccine but the flu shots, having been removed from the other vaccines in 1997 after long and successful campaigns by the scaremongering tactics of the antivax crowd. The mercury in thimerosal is part of ethyl mercury (C2H5Hg), not methyl mercury (CH3Hg). Ethyl mercury does not bioaccumulate like methyl mercury does, and is not an extremely “toxic” chemical element. Mercury is an element, methyl mercury and ethyl mercury are not. Ethyl mercury does not “wreak havoc on the nervous system”. The EPA cares primarily about methyl mercury and elemental mercury as environmental concerns, leaving ethyl mercury to the FDA due to its harmless nature. If thimerosal is 49% ethyl mercury, then this would be 125 times the EPA’s limit, not 250, if the EPA even considered ethyl mercury the same as methyl mercury, which it rightly does not.

There is no component of this paragraph that is even close to right, save the amount of thimerosal used to preserve the shots from bacterial or fungal infection, spoiling the batch and potentially harming its recipients should a spoiled vaccine be used. The false conflation lays the groundwork for the rest of the article though — all you have to do is imagine that thimerosal contains elemental mercury, a conflation they flog from the beginning to the end and you’re sure to come out every bit as mad as the frothing ignoramus who wrote the original article.

And the conflation of ethyl and methyl mercury is honestly like saying water (H2O) is the same thing as hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Only there’s a hell of a lot of chemical difference between the two. I’d rather drink the former than the latter, thank you. The difference between ethyl mercury and methyl mercury is even more vast than this. I know precious little about chemistry but I know enough to understand that adding or replacing atoms in a molecule changes the way the molecule works.

Though thimerasol is not entirely mercury, the mercury content is still extremely high, making it very toxic to the human body. Despite highly exceeding the EPA safety standards for mercury content by over 250 times, flu shots are still recommended for children over 6 months and pregnant women.

It seems that the age groups that are urged to receive the flu shot are actually most affected by mercury exposure. Young children, pregnant women, and elderly are the ‘targeted’ demographic of flu shot manufacturers, and these individuals also happen to have the least defense against the elemental neurotoxin mercury.

Young children stand a very high risk of febrile seizures from the flu, and children between 6 and 23 months old might be hospitalized or die from it. This vaccine has been in use since 1930, and has been safe. It has saved countless lives of individuals who happen to have the least defense against the influenza virus.

Living in Canada, socialist bastion that it is, I lead a relatively sheltered existence. We don’t get a lot of the same nonsense you Americans get down there, with your Deepak Chopra and Jenny McCarthy. We feel the ripple effects, though. Since we get most of your TV channels, we get exposed to the aforementioned celebrity woo-peddlers rather more than I’d like, though the usually reasonable Canadian news media mostly makes up for it.

The marketplace of ideas is now awash with bad ideas (like vaccines being more harm than help) wrapped in good memes (caring for one’s young and elderly), and this antivax idiocy is one of the latest to make a bit of a splash. I am mortified to see it on an ostensibly progressive website, though not entirely surprised. We’re supposed to be the part of the political spectrum that values evidence and reality over ideology and magical thinking, right? Let’s not give quarter to the woo-peddlers.

Our newest Canadian import: flu vaccine scaremongering
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11 thoughts on “Our newest Canadian import: flu vaccine scaremongering

  1. 1

    There isn’t even any thimerosal in the single-shot vaccines, which is what most people get anyway.

    I posted the ingrediens of my flu jab on my site, but the fanatics still insisted I’d received mercury in toxic amounts.

  2. 2

    I browsed The Canadian after I saw your posting. It looks like it’s trying to be the HuffPo, complete with whack job articles about science and health – articles by Joe Mercola, for dog’s sake.

    I hope it fails miserably.

  3. 3

    TBruce: did you see the bit about mind controlling aliens? I didn’t get to it before the Youtube video was taken down, sadly. It was going to be a follow-up for later in the week.

    anarchic teapot: you’re absolutely correct. From the Centre for Disease Control:

    The single–dose units are made without thimerosal as a preservative because they are intended to be opened and used only once. Additionally, the live–attenuated version of the vaccine (the nasal spray vaccine), is produced in single–dose units and does not contain thimerosal.

    Doesn’t matter that thimerosal does not contain elemental mercury like they say. The chances are high that you’re not getting any thimerosal in the single-dose formulations anyway.

  4. 4

    Why do journos publish science articles where they have no bloody understanding of the content? And the piece from the neurologist (why did they use a neurologist and not an immunologist?) is talking about the antibody reaction in babies, which is completely unrelated to the mercury “argument”.

    And if I could have 5c for every time I’ve seen a chemical linked to cancer, I would be well along the way to becoming a millionaire.

    It’s thought salad, along with word salad.

  5. 5

    Unfortunately, the anti-vaxers are fanatics who won’t be swayed by mere facts and logic. They know vaccinations are BAD! Jenny McCarthy, whose sole claims to fame are having a possibly autistic child and taking her clothes off, and Andrew Wakefield, whose license to practice medicine was revoked for unethical behavior, have told their followers about the horrors of vaccines. That’s enough for the faithful.

  6. rob

    how do they even get Mercury into the vaccines? as far as i know, we have only sent probes to Mercury. we haven’t landed any on the surface, let alone had them return with enough Mercury to put in thermometers and vaccines and baby formula!11!!one!!

  7. 11

    Biggest problem we have. This is the first time I’ve heard about the difference between Ethyl and Methyl Mercury. I assume this is mostly because these people are doing a lousy job of debunking this bullshit. I was under the impression there was a risk with this preservative, but it was a calculated risk that the medical professionals thought was worth it. Now I learn there’s no risk!? How did I not hear about this!?

    This just goes to show: we need more champions for science, actively publicizing the facts that these snake oil salesmen keep hiding and rejecting.

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