So, what’s the difference between the traditional flu vaccine and the preservative-free flu vaccine? The main difference is that the preservative-free flu vaccine does not contain thimerosal. Thimerosal is a mercury based preservative that protects against the growth of bacteria and fungus that could damage the vaccine. It is used in multi-dose vials of the flu vaccine to ensure it does not become contaminated as it is used for multiple people. Though different needles are used with each vaccination, thimerosal offers additional protection. Thimerosal is not used in single dose vials where the vaccine is limited to one vial per patient.
So, is thimerosal dangerous? There is no debate whether the substance mercury is toxic. Scientists agree that mercury is a potent neurotoxin (a toxin that affects the nervous system). The debate, however, ensues around the form of mercury and the amount that is considered toxic. The claims around thimerosal causing autism are under great debate and no study to date has shown a definitive link. The question is a simple yet a personal one. Do you want to expose yourself, your young children, or an unborn child to mercury, a known potent neurotoxin? To me, it makes great sense to minimize our exposure to mercury especially when there are other safer alternatives available.
The preservative-free vaccine works in the same way as other flu vaccines. It contains the same three strains of the inactivated influenza virus that is determined by research to likely be the most common strains for the approaching cold season. It takes about 2 weeks after the injection for the vaccine to become effective. Side effects are similar to those of other vaccines and include: soreness at the site of injection, low-grade fever, and muscle aches. The best time to get vaccinated is early in the fall before flu season; however, it can be received throughout the flu season until late January or even later. The CDC recommends everyone ages 6 months or older to get the flu vaccine every season.
At Hermann Wellness, we offer preservative-free flu vaccines to our patients. Please call the office at (813) 902-9559 for more information or to schedule an appointment.