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Greening Vaccines

"Parents need to demand safe vaccines that do not contain carcinogens, neurotoxins, hormone disruptors, endocrine disruptors, mutagens or teratogens."   --Deirdre Imus

Through the "Greening Vaccines" program, The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center ®  works with doctors, parents and legislators around the country on safer vaccinations and vaccine protocols for children. 

Your baby’s first, and perhaps most important medical intervention is vaccinations.  Starting from birth, there is much that we can do to ensure that the vaccines our children receive, and when they receive them, are as safe as possible.

As Deirdre Imus writes in Growing Up Green, Baby and Child Care,
 “Parents must understand both the benefits and risks associated with vaccines. The benefits are obvious: Vaccines create immunity…by inducing the body to make antibodies against diseases.  They play a critical role in preventing serious illnesses and infectious diseases.”

In 1983, the CDC vaccination schedule from birth to six years totaled 18 vaccines.  Today, it’s 50 (to view the complete vaccine schedule, click here). 

Find a Green Pediatrican in Your Area
American Academy of Pediatrics database of integrative pediatricians

If You Are Preparing to Immunize Your Child, Consider The Following:
  1. Discuss with your doctor which vaccines are necessary for your child.  After all, one size doesn't fit all.
  2. Avoid immunizing when your child is sick or recently recovered from an illness.
  3. Do not give your child a vaccine containing thimerosal. Insist on thimerosal-free vaccines. Those on the CDC routine immunization schedule should be thimerosal-free. Those not on the routine schedule, including the flu shot, may contain thimerosal. If you give the flu shot, a thimerosal-free version may need to be special-ordered by your pediatrician.
  4. Always ask for and review the vaccine’s package insert. Read the section on ingredients so you know what is in the vaccine and have the opportunity to ask the doctor any questions.  Check for the following potentially harmful ingredients, which are called adjuvants: aluminum, antibiotics, and formaldehyde. In addition, if you are aware that your child is allergic to monosodium glutamate (MSG) or eggs, let your doctor know, and check the package insert for these ingredients.  Note that all flu vaccines contain egg protein.  If you have questions, do not be intimidated from asking your doctor.
  5. Only get one vaccine per visit. This may require multiple office visits, but giving one at a time (such as one vaccine per month) reduces any complications from the interaction of multiple vaccines. It will also allow you to know precisely which vaccine caused a problem if there are any adverse reactions. We still don't know the unique vulnerabilities of each individual, which may cause complications from even one vaccine, because research hasn't been done yet to identify those biological markers that would tell us if a child has a pre-existing disposition.  Note:  MMR, DTaP and other "3-in-1" shots are still considered one vaccine, though they vaccinate against multiple illnesses. Each dose may be spaced just as with any other vaccine.
  6. Ask the doctor to check for titers. Via a simple blood test, the doctor can check to see if your child is already immune to a specific disease via previous exposure or vaccine. If the titer shows your child is immune, further vaccination (boosters) for that specific disease may not be necessary.

Before You Vaccinate, Ask About Thimerosal

What Does a Safer Vaccination Schedule Look Like? 
Dr. Lawrence Rosen, Medical Advisor to The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®, recommends the following as one possible alternative schedule: 
1. Starting at two months, one per month of Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib), pneumoccocal (Prevnar) and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTaP) vaccines.  Because each child requires three of each vaccine, this will take nine months, and all of these vaccines can be completed by the child’s first birthday. Note:  DTaP is still considered one vaccine, though it vaccinates against three illnesses.

2. Second year: three for polio; three for hepatitis B (one at a time); and MMR and varicella vaccine (one each).

3. Check titers of all antibodies at four to five years old. 
(Note: This method of spacing vaccines may require signing a waiver with your doctor.)

Considerations Regarding Vaccine Policies and Procedures:    

  1. Whether or not your child has an immune system disorder or dysfunction  
  2. Whether or not your child has a mitochondrial disorder or dysfunction, or other evidence of metabolic dysfunction including oxidative stress 
  3. Check titers for MMR and varicella vaccine; these are currently the only widely accepted titers. Varicella titers do not reliably measure vaccine immunity but do reliably reflect wild-type varicella immunity. Titers for other vaccines (polio, DTP) can be obtained but are not universally accepted as proof of immunity. 
  4. The current vaccine schedule should allow for greater flexibility, supported by third-party payor reimbursement for more frequent visits if needed.
  5. Health care providers should not have financial incentives to vaccinate according to a universal vaccine schedule which does not allow for individual care to children. Compliance with the universal vaccine schedule should not be considered an indicator of quality of care.
  6. Health care providers should not have legal disincentives to providing flexible scheduling based on each child's individual health needs. Standards of care should include flexible scheduling based on documentation of each child's individual needs. 
  7. Know your family history, especially if it includes autoimmune problems like diabetes, celiac disease, thyroid disorders or hypothyroid disease, including Hashimoto's Disease.  
  8. Influenza vaccine: There is a lack of data for safety and efficacy for the flu vaccine in children under two years old. Families also need to be offered a choice. Note that FluMist (nasal vaccine) has no mercury but contains MSG, is available for use in children two and older, and may not be covered by insurance. Single-dose FluZone vaccine (Sanofi) doesn't contain thimerosal or aluminum, but does contain formaldehyde and egg protein. You must ask for thimerosal-free flu vaccine as the majority of commercially available flu vaccines contain thimerosal.
  9. We support legislation to ban thimerosal, other toxins (neurotoxins and carcinogens), and other potentially harmful ingredients from vaccines, such as formaldehyde and aluminum.  
  10. Medical and religious exemptions are under greater scrutiny by schools. Know your state vaccine codes and exemption procedures. We support conscientious and philosophical exemption legislation.
  11. Proper vaccine disposal by individual doctors' offices and hospitals is a multi-tier problem that needs a well-coordinated solution.  Currently, the disposal of expired or unused vaccines creates a potential threat to public health by allowing these potent, chemical-laden vaccines to enter our waste stream, and in some cases, our water supply.  
  12. There are several perspectives on aluminum adjuvants in vaccines, including the two below:
  • The Neural Dynamics Research Group in Vancouver states that “aluminum adjuvants have a potential to induce serious immunological disorders in humans. In particular, aluminum in adjuvant form carries a risk for autoimmunity, long-term brain inflammation and associated neurological complications and may thus have profound and widespread adverse health consequences.” Med Chem. 2011;18(17):2630-7.  Aluminum vaccine adjuvants: are they safe?  Tomljenovic L, Shaw CA. Neural Dynamics Research Group, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, V5Z 1L8, Canada.

    Abstract:   Aluminum is an experimentally demonstrated neurotoxin and the most commonly used vaccine adjuvant. Despite almost 90 years of widespread use of aluminum adjuvants, medical science's understanding about their mechanisms of action is still remarkably poor. There is also a concerning scarcity of data on toxicology and pharmacokinetics of these compounds. In spite of this, the notion that aluminum in vaccines is safe appears to be widely accepted. Experimental research, however, clearly shows that aluminum adjuvants have a potential to induce serious immunological disorders in humans. In particular, aluminum in adjuvant form carries a risk for autoimmunity, long-term brain inflammation and associated neurological complications and may thus have profound and widespread adverse health consequences. In our opinion, the possibility that vaccine benefits may have been overrated and the risk of potential adverse effects underestimated, has not been rigorously evaluated in the medical and scientific community. We hope that the present paper will provide a framework for a much needed and long overdue assessment of this highly contentious medical issue.

  • The US FDA concludes “that episodic exposures to vaccines that contain aluminum adjuvant continue to be extremely low risk to infants and that the benefits of using vaccines containing aluminum adjuvant outweigh any theoretical concerns.” Vaccine. 2011 Nov 28;29(51):9538-43. Epub 2011 Oct 11. Updated aluminum pharmacokinetics following infant exposures through diet and vaccination. Mitkus RJ, King DB, Hess MA, Forshee RA, Walderhaug MO. Source: Office of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, USFDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, 1401 Rockville Pike, HFM-210, Rockville, MD 20852, United States. 

    Abstract:   Aluminum is a ubiquitous element that is released naturally into the environment via volcanic activity and the breakdown of rocks on the earth's surface. Exposure of the general population to aluminum occurs primarily through the consumption of food, antacids, and buffered analgesics. Exposure to aluminum in the general population can also occur through vaccination, since vaccines often contain aluminum salts (frequently aluminum hydroxide or aluminum phosphate) as adjuvants. Because concerns have been expressed by the public that aluminum in vaccines may pose a risk to infants, we developed an up-to-date analysis of the safety of aluminum adjuvants. Keith et al. [1] previously analyzed the pharmacokinetics of aluminum for infant dietary and vaccine exposures and compared the resulting body burdens to those based on the minimal risk levels (MRLs) established by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. We updated the analysis of Keith et al. [1] with a current pediatric vaccination schedule [2]; baseline aluminum levels at birth; an aluminum retention function that reflects changing glomerular filtration rates in infants; an adjustment for the kinetics of aluminum efflux at the site of injection; contemporaneous MRLs; and the most recent infant body weight data for children 0-60 months of age [3]. Using these updated parameters we found that the body burden of aluminum from vaccines and diet throughout an infant's first year of life is significantly less than the corresponding safe body burden of aluminum modeled using the regulatory MRL. We conclude that episodic exposures to vaccines that contain aluminum adjuvant continue to be extremely low risk to infants and that the benefits of using vaccines containing aluminum adjuvant outweigh any theoretical concerns.


CDC table listing vaccines and additives:

The routine pediatric vaccines containing aluminum are: DTaP/Tdap (all forms, including combinations such as Kinrix, Pediarix and Pentacel), PedvaxHiB (not other HiB vaccines though), Comvax (HiB-HepB), Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, HepA-HepB combination (TwinRix), HPV, Prevnar.  The only routine pediatric vaccines still containing thimerosal are some injectable flu vaccines.

Adverse Vaccine Reactions
Adverse vaccine reactions are more common than many parents realize. If your child has any of the following, notify your child’s doctor immediately so they can document it and advise any next steps. 

  • Fever:  a temperature over 102 degrees Fahrenheit (or any lower number that your physician specifies) shortly after, or up to twelve days following vaccination.
  • A high-pitched, persistent and inconsolable cry, indicating pain, that continues longer than 24 hours.
  • Anaphylactic reaction including hives, swelling of the mouth or throat, and labored breathing, which may indicate an egg allergy. Rashes or swelling, including any red rash on the skin or large, swollen bump at the injection site that lasts for several days. Extreme sleepiness, which may include sleeping through feedings or lethargy.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Sudden behavior changes such as personality, tantrums, sullenness, or irritability that is inconsistent with past behavior.
  • Convulsions
  • Shock
  • Brain inflammation indicated by blank stares, high-pitched screams, and arching of the back, often followed by seizures.
  • Physical or mental deterioration, such as difficulty talking, walking or crawling.
If you notice any of these, keep dated notes for yourself, as they may prove invaluable later.  Have the doctor (or yourself) obtain information about the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) at 1-800-822-7967 or online at  Always call 911 or take your child to the nearest emergency room if you feel your child may have a life-threatening vaccine reaction. 

Help us advocate for greening vaccines by supporting legislation around the country and in your area.  For Federal legislation and quick links to get involved, visit Autism Action Network.  

Source:   Imus, Deirdre. Growing Up Green: Baby and Child Care.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

Additional Resources:

Vaccine Perspectives

With concern rising over the threat of H1N1 flu ("swine flu") and the availability of vaccines, we urge parents to stay informed about prevention, the risks of the flu, and vaccine safety.  This page offers a gateway to some information on the topic.  As always, consult your pediatrician -- and read the labels* -- so you can make informed decisions about what is right for you and your family. 
Parents Must Read Up and Speak Up About Vaccine Safety

Norwalk, CT, April 2, 2009--During a panel discussion titled "Vaccines: You Do Call the Shots" at the Continental Manor in Norwalk, CT on April 1st. Deirdre Imus urged pregnant women and parents to get up to speed on vaccines so they can discuss preservatives, adverse reactions, scheduling, and other safety issues with their doctors.

First Balanced Forum on Vaccines
Generates Both Light -- and Sparks

HACKENSACK, NJ, October 27, 2008 -- The historic, first "fair and balanced forum on vaccines" generated light -- and sparks -- last Thursday among experts on both sides of the safety issue, as well as from parents concerned about new vaccine mandates in New Jersey.  Nearly 300 parents, legislators, public health officials and physicians packed an auditorium at Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) to see the sometimes heated discussion, and hundreds more watched and submitted questions online. 
Autism, ASDs and Vaccine Safety - News and Opinions
Click on the headline for links to news and opinions about autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and vaccines.
Alert! The Flu Shot: What You Need to Know
Many Americans are unaware that the adult multi-dose "flu shot" contains .01% thimerosal, equal to 25 micrograms of mercury, a known neurotoxin. (Note: the children's version contains half this amount). A thimerosal-free version is available for both children and adults.
Vaccines - Resource Links
Portland, OR, June 26, 2007 — As the first trial in Vaccine Court explores the relationship between vaccines and autism, a new survey released today indicates a strong correlation between rates of neurological disorders, such as ADHD and autism, and childhood vaccinations.
Green Pediatrics
In her New York Times bestselling book, Growing Up Green, Baby and Childcare, Deirdre Imus writes about "Green Pediatricians."  The term "green" is generally meant as an environmentally-conscious label. Green products are considered safe for the environment and healthier for people who use them. Are green doctors the same?

"Consequences of Methylmercury Toxicity
for the Health and Security of Our Nation"
The impact of environmental exposure to mercury may be more far reaching than people realize -- interfering with the brain development of our children -- according to Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, Assistant Director at the Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Click here for Dr. Trasande's testimony at a mercury briefing before the U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee (three pages).
Mercury in Medicine - Unnecessary Risks
Click text  to read what Congress knows about the risk of mercury in vaccines. This 81-page report is the result of a three-year investigation initiated in the House Committee on Government Reform, published in May 2003.
Note: Mercury has been removed from most vaccines in the U.S. but still remains in some multi-dose vaccines, including the flu shot.