Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Date: January 22, 2013
Today, Delaware's Division of Public Health (DPH) has issued a declaration allowing Delaware clinicians to use an influenza vaccine containing mercury (thimerosal) as a preservative for the next 12 months. Normally, Title 16 - 510 of the Delaware Code bans the use of mercury-containing vaccine for pregnant women and children younger than 8 years. However, the DPH director may permit the use of mercury-containing vaccines if certain criteria are met. The CDC has declared the flu season has reached epidemic levels, and Delaware is experiencing a mercury-free vaccine shortage, both factors which allow the lifting of the ban.
Delaware has had two flu-related deaths this month and 713 confirmed cases of the flu this season. That compares to four confirmed cases and no deaths at this time last year.
The law requires a provider administering a mercury-containing vaccine to "inform the client, parent or legal guardian of the client that the vaccine contains mercury, that they believe the vaccine to be medically necessary, and that the Director of Public Health has made a formal determination that the vaccine may be administered due to the existence of the shortage of mercury-free vaccines."
The issued declaration allows the use of mercury-containing vaccine for pregnant women and children younger than 8 years of age for the 2012-2013 influenza season.
"Public Health has heard from medical providers that thimerosal-free vaccine has become difficult to access," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director and a pediatrician. "And we know that pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to the flu. Public Health wants to ensure that vaccine is available for those who need it in Delaware."
According to the FDA, thimerosal has been the subject of many studies and has a long record of safe and effective use preventing bacterial and fungal contamination of vaccines, with no ill effects established other than minor local reactions at the site of injection.
For further information on thimerosal, visit: dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/files/thimerosalfaq.pdf
Residents who are not yet vaccinated are encouraged to contact their health care provider about getting vaccinated. Anyone age 6 months and older can get vaccinated for the flu. It is particularly important that anyone who works or lives with the young, persons with underlying medical conditions, or seniors, get vaccinated. Vaccinations are offered through physician offices, and many pharmacies and grocery stores. DPH is also expanding vaccination opportunities at public health clinics.
Vaccinations are available from DPH by appointment as follows:
If you need additional information on the flu or where to get vaccinated visit www.flu.delaware.gov or call 800-282-8672.
Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.