Missouri allows vacine exemption for pregnant women, children

Missouri’s top public health official granted an exemption Oct. 22 to allow pregnant women and parents of children younger than 3 to choose whether or not to receive flu vaccine containing a mercury-based preservative.

Margaret Donnelly, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, determined that a shortage of preservative-free vaccine was preventing pregnant women and young children from obtaining the new H1N1 vaccine.

Donnelly’s action temporarily sets aside a statute that prohibited pregnant women and children under 3 from receiving vaccine with this preservative. The statute also allows the health director to set aside the ban in certain circumstances, including a pandemic or a shortage of vaccine. The waiver will remain in effect until the shortage no longer exists.

“The H1N1 flu is now widespread throughout Missouri,” Donnelly said. “We know that pregnant women and young children are the most susceptible to this illness. But delays in vaccine production have created a situation where the most vulnerable people were left without vaccine protection.”

Donnelly urged women and the parents of young children to consult their health care provider to determine whether any vaccine is appropriate for them.