As travelers, what we love the most is being able to explore untouched nature and its pristine beauty. And this comes as the most important learning for us, the adaptation of nature and its sources in the purest ways. We find ourselves in a conundrum while packing the bags, whether we should stuff it with packed food items (which makes munching easier) or should we source local produce?
One of the biggest differences is in the freshness and the absence of preservatives in the local produce as we explore. The world has already embraced “Organic” and Preservative-free as the road to tread on.
Not just our food choices but sustainable fashion, responsible and sustainable tourism, and organic beauty are all trending topics of today. Amidst all this, the one thing which strikes me is vaccination, a very important step for the prevention of hundreds of diseases. Are we even aware that some vaccines have preservatives?
Do Vaccines have Preservatives?
The answer is “Yes”, in the form of Thimerosal, a compound containing Ethyl Mercury. Most of us are aware that mercury even in fairly small amounts can pose severe health concerns. Mercury may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin, and eyes. [WHO¹].
Then why is this compound, derived from mercury, even added to life-saving vaccines? Well, multi-dose vials of vaccines need a preservative, to avoid the growth of bacteria and fungi in the vaccines. Any contamination otherwise can lead to serious illness and even death. As a result, Thimerosal is added during the manufacturing process. Single vial vaccines mostly preservative-free.
Are preservative-free vaccines available?
Though there has been not much scientific evidence about the presence of Thimerosal in vaccines, resulting in major health concerns, it does causes minor reactions as swelling at the injection site and redness (CDC ²). But even the accumulation of mercury with every dose of vaccination can be questioned. Any exposure to mercury can be dangerous for a developing fetus and young children as their brain is growing constantly.
Hence, as a precautionary measure, it is always preferred to use a preservative-free vaccine. With increasing awareness, many developed nations, mainly the U.S took out Thimerosal from children vaccines back in 2001. Today, if we talk about Influenza (Flu) Vaccines, they are available in both versions, preservative-free and with preservative (Thimerosal).
As a parent, if you prefer to avoid Thimerosal, it is always a best practice to discuss it with your pediatrician first. Many clinics in India might not still have the preservative-free flu vaccine but getting a thimerosal-free vaccine has become easier now. To discuss your choices, any allergies (your child has), with your pediatrician and then go ahead with a Thimerosal-free flu shot.
Just like the traditional vaccine, preservative-free vaccines have the same dose and are also delivered at the same time. Their minor side effects might also be the same, like a low-grade fever, little swelling at the injection site, followed by some pain. These mild reactions usually go within a day or two.
Although there has been no thorough evidence of major concerns around thimerosal in vaccines, there are preservative-free options available. When one has the options, why not eliminate any risk for our children? It’s time to opt for preservative-free options, as a responsible and caring parent.
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