California's Health and Human Services has waived the ban on mercury based flu vaccines given to pregnant women and children under three, for a period of six weeks . This decision was made due to a vaccine shortage caused by production delays.
The only mercury free children's vaccine is manufactured by Sanofi pasteur, and the governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has written to them asking that they speed up production to meet the state's need.
The waiver was issued at the request of the California branch of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kaiser Permanente, the California Medical Association and the California Academy of Family Physicians.
The medical groups said the delays in vaccine production meant that pediatricians have received only partial orders of mercury-free flu . Therefore they had to turn away patients, and young children could not be protected during the flu season.However, many doctors have flu shots available with thimerosal ( a mercury based preservative ) that could be used if the ban was suspended .
But Kim Belshe, secretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency, said that in spite of the waiver the administration continues to support state law that bans mercury-based vaccines for pregnant women and children younger than three .
"We take very seriously the expressed concerns that mercury in vaccines causes autism and remain committed to full implementation of AB 2943," Belshe said in a statement.
The waiver has been granted only because the health threat from influenza is greater than the worries about the mercury based vaccine.