The federal government for the first time will recommend that all school-age children receive flu shots to tamp down on the risk of spreading the seasonal virus far and wide.
But the decision has re-ignited the concerns of parents convinced that the mercury preservative used in influenza vaccine, thimerosal, could be a cause of autism, given that mercury is a known neuro-toxin and that the preservative had been present in a range of childhood vaccines before being removed at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eight years ago.
Repeated studies have discounted any link between thimerosal and autism.
Still, with rates of autism diagnosis on the rise, many are looking to environmental toxins as a potential cause, given that studies have repeatedly shown that the development of the brain can be seriously and permanently damaged by the presence of certain metals and chemicals, even in minute quantities.
For some parents, it amounts to an unwelcome decision: accept the remote, or even hypothetical, risk of a serious lifelong illness for the near certainty of preventing a nasty illness this year. The CDC has spoken clearly that the vaccine is a good thing for children because it is not only effective in preventing a real and immediate illness that can affect a child, but also in his or her family and community.
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