The Flu Vaccine: Health 101

Is there mercury in the flu vaccine? Should I be concerned?

While mercury-free brands of the flu vaccine are available, the majority of flu shots still contain some thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that used to be found in a number of vaccines -- and that some people have claimed may cause autism.

However, more and more evidence -- via larger, better-designed studies -- has failed to find any link that thimerosal in vaccines is responsible for the onset of autism in babies and children. Most recently, a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that cases of autism in California continued to increase every year from 1995 to 2007, despite the fact that thimerosal was removed from most vaccines by 2001. Experts believe that if thimerosal were responsible for autism, cases would have dropped significantly after that time.

If you're concerned, more and more versions of thimerosal-free flu shots are available each year, and many pediatricians currently offer them. And children older than 2 can receive the nasal spray form of the vaccine, which does not contain thimerosal either.

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