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Thimerosal in Vaccines

Japan With Kids - Forums: Health Topics: Immunizations: Thimerosal in Vaccines
By mama on Friday, January 23, 2004 - 12:15 pm:

Can anyone tell me whether childhood vaccinations available in Japan offered by the local health center are mercury(thimerosol free) or whether one has to particularly request for a mercury free vaccine, also what is mercury free vaccine called in Japanese?

By Esther Sanders on Friday, January 23, 2004 - 12:41 pm:

Hello, Mama.

This is a very important question! Please know that Japanese vaccines -- including the flu shots loved by so many -- generally DO contain thimerosal! There may be newer, thimerosal-free versions, but I haven't checked this as we decided to go vaccine-free a few years ago and now rely on homeopathy instead.

If a doctor or nurse tells you a vaccine is mercury/thimerosal-free, you should still insist on checking the information insert that comes with the vaccine, as some may answer your question without really knowing (assuming they are honest). If thimerosal is there, it will be listed in katakana ("chi-me-ro-sa-a-ru"), and you may also see the chemical symbol for mercury (Hg). (I am speaking from first-hand experience here; I was actually told "no merc/thim." by a nurse, but then there it was in black and white.)

Esther Sanders

By Cornelia on Friday, January 23, 2004 - 1:47 pm:

Thanks Esther, I totally agree that this important.
"Thimerosol is a mercury-containing preservative used in vaccines since the 1930's to prevent bacterial contamination."
The ones that might have Thimerosol in it appear to be DPT, hepatitis B, MMR and haemophilus influenza and probably a few others. However there are also Thimerosol free version available. The link between Thimerosol and some developed illnesses (like some forms of autism for example) is supposedly not proven. But there is a huge grass roots coalition declaring better "safe than sorry". And there is evidence of a correlation being claimed in various publications.

I recently met a great kid, four years old, but something's not quite right, and her mother mentioned that maybe she's got a case of autism (mild) due to a vaccine... So now I am re-examining this whole thing. One item I had noticed in the immunization schedule in Japan is that it is a lot slower than in the USA. Here they wait longer before administering various vaccines that are given at a younger age in the USA. The hepatitis B vaccine is not even included! Look at my post above, dated 2000 June 21, for the typical vaccinatin schedule. For example in the USA it is widely accepted to administer a hepatitis-B vaccine on the day of birth. NOT IN JAPAN. All around the Japanese approach seems to be bit more guarded. However, we also know that historically the first 6 months of an infant's life are the most dangerous ones. And so on in lesser degrees up to about the age of 6 or so.

It's difficult to balance the material (just put "Thimerosol" and "mercury" into Google and you will see what I mean). How to make sense out of "Estimates of the prevalence of the syndrome in Britain range from 10 cases per 10,000 of the population with "classic" autism, to 9.1 cases per 1,000 showing some signs of autistic behavior" ( This means that most kids are not obviously in danger, or one in a hundred is in danger. Sort of confusing.

Also, what if there are other possible long term side effects from Thimerosol, and we haven't made the connection yet? We haven't figure out why the incidence of allergies is rising so steeply either. There are many unknowns. On the other hand, I have a very dear friend who suffered from polio. His limp and the accompanying pain that goes with it plus the certainty that he will cease walking at a younger age than normal, are witness to the good that has been done in this world with the polio vaccine.

It's too late to change anything for my daughter, and so far she appears perfectly normal; however, if I were doing it over again, I think I might make a more careful examination of the data before embarking on the routine course of childhood immunizations. I would hesitate to reject all use of immunizations and vaccines, but I would also make sure I was better informed, and I would take the time to find the Thimerosol-free vaccines available.

By Steve K on Friday, February 6, 2004 - 11:17 am:

Thanks to all of you for this thread. After knowing nothing about thimerosal, I probably had my radar up for this topic because I immediately recognized the importance of the following story in my hometown newspaper today:

Part of the article is provided below as an excerpt (the article soon may be available only to subscribers).


VACCINE ADDITIVE LINKED TO BRAIN DAMAGE IN CHILDREN - Mercury-based preservative tied to autism, ADHD, U.S. resaearchers say
OTTAWA -- After assuring parents that additives in vaccines don't cause brain damage, scientists have found what they believe could be a "smoking gun" linking these additives to autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

In a study that was rushed to print on-line today, two months ahead of its scheduled publication in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, U.S. researchers have discovered an apparent link between thimerosal, a controversial mercury-based preservative once commonly used in childhood vaccines, to an increased risk of neurological disorders such as autism and ADHD.

While most vaccines distributed in Canada have been thimerosal-free since the early 1960s, the preservative was used in the annual flu shot that doctors recommended this year for even healthy children.

In tests on human brain cells, researchers found two natural chemicals -- one compound that stimulates cell growth and also dopamine, which transmits nerve signals -- are both key to a process in the brain called methylation. Methylation helps DNA work properly and is crucial to the normal development of the brain.

The team found thimerosal, ethanol and the metals lead and mercury all interfere with methylation. What's more, thimerosal did so at doses 100 times lower than a child would receive after a single shot with a thimerosal-containing vaccine.

"It was by far the most potent," said investigator Dr. Richard Deth, a professor of pharmacology at Northeastern University in Boston.

He said the study, which also involved researchers from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Nebraska and Tufts University in Boston, could account for the rising rates of autism since the early 1980s, when more thimerosal-containing shots were added to a child's vaccine schedule

A recent review of vaccine-related "adverse events" in the U.S. found a "significant correlation" between shots containing thimerosal and autism, the researchers report.

But one of Canada's leading experts in vaccination says large studies have repeatedly failed to find any association between brain damage and vaccines that do, or don't, contain thimerosal.

"What [the researchers] are doing in the test tube may or may not have any relationship to what happens in the body," added Dr. Ronald Gold, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Toronto and author of Your Child's Best Shot: A Parent's Guide to Vaccination. He says there's no evidence that the low doses of thimerosal researchers tested would even cross a child's blood-brain barrier.

By Cathy Thompson on Saturday, June 19, 2004 - 11:50 am:

Does anyone know how to obtain vaccines in Japan that do not contain the preservative Thimerosal? They no longer use it in childrens vaccines in the US but from what I understand it is still used in vaccines in Japan.

By Karen on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 12:01 pm:

Hi Cathy,

I just saw on Dr. King's web site (the King Clinic) that he offers thimerosal-free vaccines. Dr. King is a great doctor, takes both Japanese National Health Insurance and private insurance and is the official doctor of the United Nations. He has a calm and gentle bedside manner and doesn't hesitate to pull down a book and explain things or show you pictures. He also doesn't prescribe meds right, left, and center, which I appreciate. Highly recommended.

He is in Harajuku, kitty-corner from the Gap.

Here's his web page:

By Karen on Sunday, June 27, 2004 - 1:23 pm:

Hi again,

I just checked with Dr. King on Friday and he let me know that he is able to offer all of the childhood vaccinations thimerosal free. He can get all thimerosal-free adult vaccines too, except for Hepatitis B and one other one, which I forget.

He has done a lot of research on each vaccine and is providing the best ones he feels are available.

Good luck,


By Babajiji on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 - 2:56 pm:

I have grandchildren born and living in Japan. It's time for my 13 month old grandson to have a chickenpox vaccination and I am wondering if the thimerosal in this vaccine has been removed in Japan. There is a post on this, but it was from 2004 and at that time the vaccine still had it. I know there is a clinic in Tokyo (Kings Clinic) which offers thimerosal free vaccinations, but it lists the varicela (chickenpox) vaccine as domestic. Most vaccinations in the US have removed this preservative. Does anyone know what the status is in Japan? thanks for any help.

By Sandy on Friday, March 14, 2008 - 12:37 am:

Chicken Pox vaccination is not government sponsored in Japan, so the consumer chooses whether or not to pay for it, and of course can choose to get thimerosal free vaccine. Yes, King Clinic has it. I know he gets some of his vaccination stocks from abroad. but if it is listed as domestic, then if you are still concerned, best to just pick up the phone and call him (or email - I think there's an email address on his site). You might mention that you have been using the japanwithkids website as a research tool. If he has not had much call for a particular vaccine, he may have stopped importing it, no small task. I never had my daughter vaccinated against chicken pox, because I knew she'd get chicken pox at daycare while still young, and I think that it is in low demand in Japan, though maybe this has been increasing slightly.

By Tesselator on Friday, March 14, 2008 - 1:53 am:

I wonder which is safer... Letting the kid get chicken-pox which I think is not a serious disease in the first place unless you happen to be pregnant and HIGHLY unlikely in Japan anyway or vaccinating for it?

note from admin: if it is highly unlikely in Japan (?) then that would actually make a case for getting a kid vaccinated, if that child will be living in a geographic area high in chicken pox later as an adult, when it is actually dangerous

By Natasha on Friday, March 14, 2008 - 12:02 pm:

Yes, chicken pox in adults is pretty serious. In young children, it is not, and if you get it as a young child, then you won't get it again later (with some rare exceptions.).

The only problem with chicken pox is that the child has to stay home while sick. This can actually be a huge problem if you are a working parent, with a boss who doesn't care that you are also a parent. I think that child-hood illnesses carry a very real and high stress cost for the working parent. I was unable to find any help in Tokyo the first day. No one wanted to care for a sick child while I went to work. I finally got someone through a service at the ward office for 1.5 days (she arrived half-way through Thursday), and then by the end of Sunday the crisis was over. My daughter was back in daycare by Monday morning after a stop at her pediatrician to get a signed certificate allowing her to be back among other children. I was very lucky that the course of the contagious part lasted only 5 days, including a weekend, with my daughter (which is about normal, but sometimes it lasts longer).

Even so, I am skeptical of the chicken pox immunization. It does not work 100%, and chicken pox is an easy disease for young children to tolerate, usually. Other vaccines have been responsible for much good in the world, such as polio for example. I think each parent should make their own assessment or get advice from someone they respect (such as their doctor), and not reject all vaccines and immunizations out of hand.

If you want your children to build up their immune systems, go ahead and let them play in the dirt and around animals and not wash their hands quite so often. Overly sanitary environments actually retard immune system development in the young, and it can not be caught up after adolescence.

By Babajiji on Saturday, March 15, 2008 - 12:16 pm:

Well, I'm not a huge fan of over-vaccinating, but my older grandson got chickenpox there in Japan and the childcare is an issue. There has been an outbreak of chickenpox in the area where they live. The baby got Whooping cough when he was only 3 months old and hadn't been vaccinated so it made us think again about vaccinating. As it turned out we asked the doctor and he looked through his literature that came with the vaccine and then called the manufacturer and found that the thimerosal had been removed. My grandchildren do plenty of playing in the dirt and are breastfed so hopefully their immune systems are building. It's not an easy decision and it's hard to make for someone else! Thanks for the advice, links and help.

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