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Mercury-free vaccinations pass out of House Committee

April 27, 2005
By: Elizabeth Baird
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - After several changes, the House Health Care Policy Committee brought mercury-free vaccinations one step closer to law.

The bill now awaits debate on the House floor.

The legislation, which passed in the Senate April 13, prohibitis all but traces of the mercury-containing preservative thimerasol from vaccinations given to children under three and pregnant women.

Lujene Clark of Carthage, a former nurse whose son Devon, 9, suffered mercury poisoning after receiving a flu immunization, woke up at 4 Wednesday morning in order to be in the Capitol in time to testify in support of the legislation.

"I stay true to my principles and I stay true to the children of Missouri."

Clark said an abundance of research has indicated immunizations containing mercury can cause mercury poisoning and potentially autism in children.

The Senate also added an amendment requiring a patient to be informed if an immunization contained mercury and allowing a patient to refuse a shot that contained more than the legal limit.

Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, asked the committee to remove the amendment so that the legislation would have better chance of becoming law.

"The Governor can't support this bill with this amendment. It's a matter of getting something done," Champion said.

Rep. Kevin Threlkeld, R-Washington, agreed with Champion. He said the political realities would not allow such a stipulation to exist.

The contestation with the amendment would be not allowing the Health Department to use these vaccines in case of an outbreak or epidemic that would need emergency treatment.

Clark and her husband, Alan, a physician in Missouri for over 30 years, have been advocates and lobbyists for the legislation since it was filed last year. She said the Senate amendment was important in providing infomation to parents and allowing them the right to choose.

"If it can happen to the child of a board certified MD, if a family with our medical background didn't know(about the mercury content), don't you think the average Missouri parent deserves to know. These children should be on the Governor's conscience," said Clark.

Jessica Robinson, a representative from Gov. Matt Blunt's office, said the amendment would hinder the ability of the state to administer vaccinations, which had the Governor concerned.

"I don't think it's fair to say what the Governor would or would not do at this point, there's still a lot to be done," Robinson said.

The bill underwent extensive surgery prior to its passage. Last year when Champion presented the bill to the Senate, the age limitation was 14. The house version of the bill, stipulating no mercury under age 8 passed 152-4 last year, but failed to come to a vote in the Senate.

Ron Calzone, a director for Missouri First, a libretarian organization, said the age needed to be higher in order to ensure all Missouri's chlidren are protected.

"We are going to undermind the trust of parents if we say it's too dangerous for children under three, but if you're three and one day, we're going to make you take that vaccine."

Similar legislation has passed in California and Iowa and other bills addressing mercury vaccinations have been filed in 14 other states.

Clark said even if the bill passes, she will continue fighting until mercury is removed from all vaccinations.

"For the sake of the almighty dollar we're willing to put children at four and over at risk. We have a moral and legal responsibility to children," Clark said.