New Ad 'Demands' Mercury-Free Flu Vaccine

SafeMind launches new campaign to target big city moviegoers.

ByABC News
November 19, 2010, 6:08 PM

November 22, 2010— -- Perhaps you're thinking of grabbing that significant other and heading to the movies to check out one of the new romantic comedies. That'll be sure to fuel the flames between you two because the weather sure isn't, you think.

But don't snuggle too close. Flu season is underway. And if you haven't gotten your flu shot yet, the vaccine safety organization SafeMinds has a message for you.

A new video campaign, running with other previews in movie theaters around nine cities nationwide beginning the day after Thanksgiving, will urge viewers -- especially pregnant mothers and children -- to "demand" your doctor give you a mercury-free flu vaccine this year.

The video features Lyn Redwood, executive director of SafeMinds who warns that many flu vaccines contain mercury, suggested by the organization to be a potential toxin linked to neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism.

"Don't take the risk. Demand mercury-free flu shots," Redwood says in the video.

The public service announcement is one of the largest campaigns launched by SafeMinds yet. The group estimates it will be viewed by more than half a million moviegoers. But the message has many experts bracing for another turn on the vaccine-safety merry-go-round.

"I don't look at it as a PSA but as a PDA -- a public disservice announcement," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Multi-dose vials of flu vaccines, which contain about ten flu shots in one vial, are the most common type of vaccine manufactured for public use. Thimerosal, a compound that contains mercury, is used as to preserve the vaccine.

However, vials that contain only a single dose of the flu shot, along with the nasal spray vaccine, are manufactured without thimerosal. Those, according to SafeMinds, are the type of vaccines consumers should demand.

But many manufacturers don't make enough, and many local pharmacies and doctors' offices may not carry single-dose vaccines. Some experts say they fear that consumers who will have to request and wait for the special order – if providers will place them -- may choose not to get vaccinated at all.