State ends mercury-limit suspension for H1N1 flu vaccine

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington’s limit on the amount of mercury allowed in H1N1 flu vaccines for certain people is ending, the state’s Department of Health announced March 23.

The limits on thimerosal were suspended last fall when supplies of mercury-free vaccine were limited, possibly preventing vaccination of pregnant women and children under three who wanted to be immunized.

“Pregnant women were hit especially hard by H1N1 infections and younger children were at high risk, so we wanted to give them vaccine options,” state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said. “Suspending the limits made the vaccine more widely available to vulnerable people at a time when supplies were low and production was slow, but that’s no longer the case. There’s plenty of vaccine for everyone, and vaccination is the best protection against H1N1.”

Washington is seeing only low H1N1 activity now, yet flu is still circulating.

The six-month suspension that ended March 23 applied only to H1N1 vaccines. Washington state law limits the amount of mercury that can be in vaccines for pregnant women and children under three. The secretary of health can suspend the law when there’s a shortage of vaccine or during a disease outbreak.