By Rachel Bocchino

This is part 3 of a 5 part series this week (July 29-August 2). 

Vaccines have been successfully preventing dangerous diseases and saving lives for centuries.  This week, we look at some of the myths surrounding vaccines and the truth behind them.  On Thursday, we kick of National Immunization Awareness Month!  Check out the next myth and the recommended vaccination schedule below.

Myth 3: All vaccines contain mercury, which can have harmful effects.

needleThere are two types of mercury – ethylmercury and methylmercury – and although they sound similar, these two compounds are very different.  The human body has a much harder time breaking down the poisonous methylmercury, which allows it to build up in our systems overtime.  Methylmercury is found in fish and is the reason why there are certain restrictions on fish consumption.  Ethylmercury, however, is broken down with ease by our bodies and therefore is not dangerous.

The vaccine preservative that has garnered some negative press is the ethylmercury-containing compound, thimerosal.  Though studies have demonstrated no harmful effects of thimerosal in vaccines, the preservative was removed from all childhood vaccines in 2001.  The only vaccine still containing small levels of thimerosal is the flu shot, but a mercury-free version is also available upon request!

Check back tomorrow to find out the truth behind another immunization myth.

Call your primary care physician to get you or your child vaccinated! If you don’t have a doctor, call the Mayor’s Health Line at (617) 534-5050.

Vaccination Schedules from the Centers for Disease Control:

Recommended vaccination schedule for ages 0-6 years

Recommended vaccination schedule for ages 7-18 years

Recommended vaccination schedule for adults

For more information on vaccination, check out Immunization Basics from the CDC or call the Boston Public Heath Commission at (617) 534-5611.

Rachel Bocchino is the IDB Social Media Outreach Intern for STI Education.  She attends the College of the Holy Cross, is a Classics Major/Chemistry Minor and in the Pre-Health Program.  She will graduate in 2014.