The remarkable claim that thimerosal is not toxic is found in the headline and text of an article in the New Scientist in a last ditch stand to prevent a UN ban on mercury in paediatric vaccines . The author, Dr Heidi Larson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine states:
“ In 2006, an expert panel convened by the WHO issued a statement on thiomersal in vaccines, concluding that there was "no evidence of toxicity". It highlighted the fact that while methyl mercury builds up in the body, ethyl mercury is excreted rapidly. The American Academy of Pediatrics has since endorsed the WHO's position.”
She does not mention that her colleague at LSHTM, Prof Stephen Evans was on the World Health Organization committee (Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety) which issued the statement in July 2006 and he and another LSHTM employee, Dr Punam Mangtani, presently still sit on it . Evans previously worked for the UK Medicines Control Agency (now the MHRA ) which is an agency of the Department of Health funded by the pharmaceutical industry. The current chair of GACVS is Dr Melinda Wharton of the US Centers for Disease Control, National Immunization Program.
Dr Larson fails to mention either the LSHTM conflicts :
“The School has expanded greatly in recent years. Its research funding now exceeds £M60 per annum, much of it from highly competitive national and international sources such as the UK Research Councils, the Wellcome Trust, the UK Department for International Development, the UK Department of Health, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the European Commission.”
Or her personal ones:
“Dr. Larson previously headed Global Communication for Immunization at UNICEF and Chaired the Advocacy Task Force for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).”
She also runs from LSHTM the Vaccine Confidence Project which has as its partners: Brighton Collaboration; CDC; Chatham House; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; GAVI Alliance; Health Map; Imperial College, London; The Inclen Trust; Institute for Child Health, Nigeria; International Pediatric Association; International Vaccine Institute; National Centre for Immunisation, Research Surveillance; National Network for Immunization Information; ProMed Mail; Public Health Foundation of India; Sabin Vaccine Institute; UNICEF; Vaccines for Africa; WHO. It is funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Also at LSHTM is the chair of the UK Joint Committee on Vaacination and Immunisation (JCVI),Prof Andrew Hall, which was granted dictatorial powers over the vaccine program by the English Parliament in 2009, although they did remove mercury from the UK vaccine schedule in 2004.
The claim that ethyl mercury is “excreted rapidly” is based on a study published in the Lancet by Pichichero et al which was disproved by Burbacher et al in 2004 . Pichichero’s article failed to note the following conflicts disclosed in an earlier publication :
"The author has received research grants and/or honoraria from the following pharmaceutical companies: Abbott Laboratories, Inc.; Bristol Myers Squibb Company; Eli Lilly and Company; Merck&Co.; Pasteur Merieux Connaught; Pfizer Labs; Roche Laboratories; Roussel-Uclaf; Schering Corporation; Smith Kline Beecham Pharmaceuticals; Upjohn Company; Wyeth- Lederle."
In an earlier episode the WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety had endorsed the continued use of thimerosal following the presentation of British paper in which there were many apparent irregularities. On the committee at the time were Dr Elizabeth Miller who was a lead author of the paper, and Dr Robert Chen of the US Centers for Disease Control, Immunization Branch who was responsible for giving the paper the go ahead despite warnings from Thomas Verstraeten. Among the shortcomings of Dr Miller’s paper was the failure to acknowledge her laboratory’s funding from Aventis Pasteur, Wyeth Vaccines, SmithKline Beecham, Baxter Health Care, North American Vaccine, Wyeth- Lederle Vaccine, and Chiron Biocine.
Yesterday I wrote by email to Dr Larson and have yet to receive a reply:
“Dear Dr Larson,
“I read your article in New Scientist with curiosity but I also note a peculiar research bias: not only a belief that there is some mercury which is non-toxic to humans for which I defy you to produce any evidence, but also the idea that people who are sceptical of what they are told by public bodies need researching. The issue here is as much why you should be believed, and what you are saying is frankly incredible.
“These are the links to the abstracts of 90 pubmed listed peer review studies which condemn the use of thimerosal: here and here. It is a bit high handed to announce that your mercury is non-toxic when there is a lot of published evidence saying it is just as toxic as any other.
“I also draw your attention to highly questionable way in which the WHO policy came to be endorsed in 2002, a matter which I have carefully researched .
“I would be interested in your comments.
“UK Editor, Age of Autism”