By Jenny Thompson on 12/18/2010 If you want to make heads explode, here's all you do: Suggest that mercury in vaccines is maybe not such a great idea.
Then stand back and watch the fireworks.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, several movie theaters throughout the U.S. ran a public service announcement about flu shots. The PSA was produced by an organization called Safe Minds.
The PSA opened on Lyn Redwood, RN, MSN, the executive director of Safe Minds. Her simple message: The flu shot contains mercury, which is toxic, particularly for pregnant mothers, infants, and children. But you can ask your doctor for mercury-free flu shots.
And that's it. Redwood never suggests that anyone NOT get a flu shot. Here's exactly what she says: "Demand mercury-free flu shots." So she's actually ENCOURAGING the audience to get flu shots--even mothers and infants. All she's saying is to get one that doesn't contain mercury.
Now that seems pretty reasonable. I don't happen to agree about getting a flu shot. But if you're going to get one, Redwood's advice to ask for a mercury-free shot is sensible. Well...sensible to you and me, maybe. But not to the community of hardboiled skeptics who turn purple at the very idea that mercury in a vaccine could be harmful. In fact, on a website called Skepchick, a blogger named Elyse put out an impassioned call for a boycott of any theaters that dared show this 30-second PSA.
Elyse is a mom who describes herself as an "aspiring skeptical superhero" and includes descriptions of her unique drink recipes in her bio. So clearly her credentials line up well with Ms. Redwood's. Nonetheless, in her blog post, she wrote, "Flu shots save lives and no one should be fear-mongered away from their health and safety."
Makes you wonder if Elyse actually even saw the pro-flu shot PSA. Or more likely, skeptics like Elyse just immediately go deaf as soon as they hear the word "mercury."
Elyse went on to make these three points about thimerosol, the controversial preservative that's no longer used in most vaccines:
1) "Thimerosol is not poison"
2) "Thimerosol is not dangerous to pregnant women or children"
3) "Thimerosol is NOT DANGEROUS. Period."
Actually, thimerosol contains mercury. Mercury is neurotoxin. Ask any scientist. It's not debatable. It's a fact. Period.
But for Elyse and other so-called skeptics, any suggestion that mercury might pose even the slightest problem is completely intolerable. Because if they admit that mercury (and therefore thimerosol) might be the least bit dangerous, then they open themselves to being branded as "anti-vax" nut jobs who believe vaccines cause autism.
And there's no middle ground with these people. You're either a dim-witted, anti-vax loon, or you're an enlightened, pro-vax crusader. But in fact there is middle ground, even if they don't recognize it. And it's simple. The average child is probably not at risk of developing autism after a series of vaccines. But some kids might have a genetic hypersensitivity to something in the vaccines. Or they might be hypersensitive to receiving clusters of shots, which is how infants in the U.S. receive their vaccinations.
In any case, this deserves serious attention and research--maybe even more serious than the opinion of a woman who invented the fried Mexican ice cream martini.
You know. I'm not quite sure what SkepChick.org's real purpose is. But I feel compelled to point out that in the "nav bar" where people normally have "about us," "contact" and the like, SkepChick.org has all of those AND a link for free vaccines. So maybe, just maybe, Elyse and her fellow chicks have a vested interest in us doing shots (either vaccines or one of her cute little drink inventions).