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Letter to The Lancet regarding misinformation about the Institute of Medicine's Immunization Safety Review Committee Meeting

Lancet 2001;358(9277):213
 

July 25, 2001

Richard Horton, Editor
The Lancet
Editorial Office
655 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10010

RE: Misquote

Dear Dr. Horton,

In the July 21, 2001 issue of the Lancet on page 214, I was seriously misquoted in the report by Faith McLellan. At the U.S. Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine meeting on thimerosal, I did not state that …"all countries need to stop using these vaccines now." I did say that additional research needs to be done to determine if harm was caused to infants by these vaccines. If evidence reveals that harm was done, assistance will need to be provided to developing country manufacturers to help with removing thimerosal as a preservative for vaccines used in infants. As I have stated repeatedly in several publications and in my IOM presentation, I have encouraged a preference for the use of vaccines that do not contain thimerosal as a preservative, whenever possible, for infants.

The slides that I used for the presentation indicating these points are now available on the IOM website at www.iom.edu. I understand that the full text of my presentation and the voice recording will soon be available on the IOM website. The website for the Institute for Vaccine Safety also contains the slides from this presentation and information on my past presentations and opinions regarding the use of vaccines that contain thimerosal as a preservative.

I ask that the error in the Lancet article be corrected as soon as possible and with as much prominence as the original article, because calling for an immediate halt to the use of all thimerosal-containing vaccines would be very harmful and I do not support such action. The Lancet article is also incorrect in stating that thimerosal-containing vaccines are no longer routinely given in the United States. These vaccines are safe and needed for older children and adults, and, in fact, are still in use.

Furthermore, the Lancet article is incorrect in stating that the AAP and U.S. Public Health Service called for a halt to the manufacture of thimerosal-containing vaccines in June 1999. The joint statement issued by the AAP and PHS in July 1999 encouraged the reduction or elimination of mercury in vaccines used in infants as rapidly as possible.

I am concerned that an article in the Lancet would contain so many egregious mistakes that could impact on the appropriate use of vaccines. The reporter did not speak with me to validate the statement that was attributed to me. I request that a correction be issued in the next issue of the Lancet highlighting these errors, not only because my position has been absolutely misstated, but also to avoid potential harm that could come from the misperception that vaccines containing thimerosal should not be used.

Sincerely,

Neal A. Halsey, MD
IVS Director

originally posted July 30, 2001

This page was last updated on August 08, 2012

Institute for Vaccine Safety