Massive Recall of Mercury Containing Vaccines Requested
The chairman of the Government Reform Committee of U.S. Congress has just asked the Department of
Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary to undertake a massive government recall of over 50
vaccines containing the mercury preservative thimerosal. The FDA has ignored his previous request.
The press release (full text below) can be read at http://www.house.gov/reform/press/00.10.26.htm.
The letter to Shalala (full text below) can be read at http://www.house.gov/reform/letters/10.25.00.pdf
The incredible testimony clearly illustrating the risks of mercury in vaccines that was given at the
7/18/00 Congressional Hearing "Mercury in Medicine: Are We Taking Unnecessary Risks?" can be
accessed at http://www.house.gov/reform/hearings/healthcare/00.07.18/index.htm.
Since the Government Reform Committee has oversight of DHHS, you can help by writing a quick note to
your congressional representative asking him/her to contact DHHS and voice their support for the
immediate recall of all mercury containing vaccines to protect our nation's children. You can let
them know that the reluctance by federal health officials to recall these vaccines contributes to a
growing erosion of confidence in federal vaccine policy which currently puts profits ahead of child
safety. You can send a quick email note to your Congressional Representative at http://www.house.gov/writerep/
COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM
2157 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON, DC 20515
Contact: Josie Duckett
26 October 2000
Chairman Burton Requests Vaccine Recall
Washington, DC - In an October 25, 2000 letter to HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, Congressman Dan
Burton (R-IN), Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, requested a recall of all
vaccines containing Thimerosal. The mercury-based product Thimerosal is added to vaccines as a
On July 18, 2000 the Committee conducted a hearing entitled, "Mercury in Medicine: Are We Taking
Unnecessary Risks?" During the hearing, the FDA admitted that children are being exposed to unsafe
levels of mercury through vaccines containing Thimerosal. It was also determined that symptoms of
mercury poisoning mimic symptoms of autism -- a disease that has reached epidemic levels in the
United States. However, the FDA has chosen to allow pharmaceutical companies to merely phase out
their use of Thimerosal, leaving mercury-containing vaccines at public and private health
In his letter to Secretary Shalala, Chairman Burton stated:
"We all know and accept that mercury is a neurotoxin, and yet the FDA has failed to recall the 50
vaccines that contain Thimerosal...On their own website, the FDA states, 'lead, cadmium, and
mercury are examples of elements that are toxic when present at relatively low levels'.
"Our children are the future of this country. As a Government we have a responsibility to do
everything within our power to protect them from harm, including ensuring that vaccines are safe and
effective. Every day that mercury-containing vaccines remain on the market is another day HHS is
putting 8,000 children at risk. Given that Thimerosal-free vaccines are available, and the known
risk of mercury toxicity, to leave Thimerosal-containing vaccines on the market is
October 25, 2000
The Honorable Donna Shalala, M. D.
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Secretary Shalala:
Pursuant to Rules X and XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the Committee on Government
Reform has oversight of the Department of Health and Human Services. As you are aware, the
Committee is conducting an oversight investigation into vaccine safety and policy. As part of
this investigation a hearing was conducted on July 18 entitled, "Mercury in Medicine . Are We
Talking Unnecessary Risks?" We received very credible testimony regarding the similarity
between symptoms of mercury poisoning and autism and the continued use of thimerosal containing
At the time of that hearing, I requested that the Food and Drug Administration recall all
thimerosal-containing vaccines from the market. This request was ignored. A petition to the FDA from
the parents of vaccine-injured children was ignored. Additional scientific data that has been
provided to the FDA regarding the dangers of thimerosal in vaccines has been ignored.
I am asking that you personally respond to this request regarding an FDA recall of
During a review required by the Food and Drug Modernization Act, it was learned that infants receive
more mercury in the first six months of life than is considered safe according to federal
guidelines. For a twelve-to-fourteen month old child receiving vaccines on the Universal Childhood
Immunization Schedule as they are typically delivered (four to six shots in one doctors visit), they
may receive forty or more times the amount of mercury than is considered safe according to
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines. The EPA guidelines were confirmed to be accurate
through an independent evaluation conducted by the National Research Council (NRC). The NRC
published their mercury report in July.
In testimony to the Committee, the FDA witness stated that each of the vaccines recommended on the
Universal Childhood Immunization Schedule are now available for use in a thimerosal free version.
While the FDA proposes to "phase out" thimerosal-containing vaccines over time, I implore
you to conduct a full recall of these products. If the only action that HUS takes is a gradual phase
out, children will continue to be put at risk every day. HHS is leaving supplies of this toxic
substance in doctors' offices, at Public Health Clinics, and in managed care facilities. These
vaccines will continue to be injected in children for years to come -putting our nation's most
vulnerable population -our babies -at risk for mercury poisoning.
We all know and accept that mercury is a neurotoxin, and yet the FDA has failed to recall the 50
vaccines that contain thimerosal. While thimerosal has previously been ruled by the FDA to fit the
"generally recognized as safe" standard, when the FDA conducted their Over the Counter
(OTC) drug review they changed their minds. The FDA determined that mercury compounds used as active
ingredients in OTC drug products were not found to be "generally recognized as safe."
Additionally the FDA has not approved any mercury containing compounds as food additives and does
not consider any mercury containing compounds to be "generally recognized as safe." On
their own website, the FDA states, "lead, cadmium, and mercury are examples of elements that
are toxic when present at relatively low levels."
As you know autism rates in this country have skyrocketed. What used to be a very rare condition is
now occurring in 1 in 500 children nationwide. In the sixth district of Indiana, 1 in 400 children
is autistic. In many areas, the number is as high as 1 in 150 children. The difference in many of
these cases of autism is that the symptoms do not appear at birth, but shortly after the delivery of
shots in the second year of life.
Our children are the future of this country. As a Government we have a responsibility to do
everything within our power to protect them from harm, including insuring that vaccines are safe and
effective. Every day that these mercury-containing vaccines remain on the market is another day HHS
is putting 8,000 children at risk. Given that thimerosal-free vaccines are available, and the known
risk of mercury toxicity, to leave thimerosal-containing vaccines on the market is unconscionable.
The Chair of the Department of History at the University of Kentucky has provided additional
research to the FDA since the July 18 hearing confirming the risks of thimerosal.
Each child who is vaccine-injured is a tragedy. From previous experience, we know that even when
HITS advised health care professionals to avoid using oral polio and whole cell pertussis vaccines
because of the higher rate of adverse events, many clinics and doctors continued to use up their
supplies of these vaccines rather than replace them with safer vaccines. How many families were
needlessly exposed to live polio and how many children suffered seizures and other tragic injuries
for the sake of medical profits? To ignore an avoidable risk and to put 8,000 children a day in
harm's way is not only inhumane, it may be criminal.
Please personally respond to this request to recall all thimerosal-containing vaccines by October
31. If you have any questions, please contact Professional Staff Member, S. Elizabeth Clay at
Dan Burton, Chairman
Cc: Honorable Henry Waxman
Ranking Minority Member