Is mercury in vaccines really safe? It’s time to prove it!

Robert Kennedy Jr. is offering $100,000 to anyone who can prove that the mercury in vaccines is safe. An expert guides us through our worries in the meantime.

Sean Locke | Stocky United

Prompting yet another round of questions regarding the safety of vaccines, Robert Kennedy Jr., chairman of the World Mercury Project, is offering $100,000 to anyone who can prove that the mercury levels in a preservative used in vaccines is safe.

Kennedy claims that the government—the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), specifically—have been lying to people for years about the safety of thimerosal, a a mercury-containing preservative, present in 48 million U.S. flu vaccines each year … and, in massive doses, in the pediatric vaccines given to 100 million children across the developing world.”

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“On one hand,” Kennedy says, “the government is telling pregnant women which mercury-laced fish to avoid so that they don’t harm their fetuses, and on the other, the CDC supports injecting mercury-containing vaccines into pregnant women, infants and children. This defies all logic and common sense.”

Thus, Kennedy, who claims he is not anti-vax, is offering the prize to anyone who can, in effect, make some sense of this.

Lots of worries & few answers

Of course, this news stirs up all kinds of fears in parents, wondering just who and what to believe about the safety of vaccines.

While repeated scientific studies dispute any links to between MMR vaccines and autism, we all hear the anecdotal evidence to support claims that the link exists. And though we want to trust what government agencies have been telling us regarding mercury levels in vaccines for decades (spanning, for what it’s worth, different presidential administrations!), any news on the potential dangers of vaccines rightfully worries parents.

It’s difficult to prove the absolute safety or danger of vaccines, as there are so many issues ‘downstream’ and so many children who are vaccinated.

This is something Dr. Ruben Mesa, professor and chair of the Division of Hematology & Medical Oncology at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, and a father of two, understands.

There’s good reason for the “concern over the high volumes of mercury of bottom-feeding fish,” Mesa says, as mercury can be damaging to our brains. Mesa reminds us that the phrase “mad as a hatter” came about because the mercury used to cure the felt used in hats poisoned the hatters and made them, well, mad.

For now, common sense is best

However, though Mesa concedes it’s difficult to “prove the absolute safety or danger [of vaccines], as there are so many issues ‘downstream'” and so many children who are vaccinated, Mesa considers vaccines not only safe, but essential to our health. He believes this as a “host,” as a father, and as a doctor who treats patients who are immuno-compromised.

As for Kennedy’s assertions that the government is hiding something or in cahoots with Big Pharma, Mesa reminds us of two things. One, vaccines are not big money makers for pharmaceutical companies (“When we have runs on vaccines, it’s because they don’t make that much. Because they aren’t that profitable,” Mesa says.) And two, unlike the food we eat or the water we drink, medicine and vaccines are “highly regulated and protected.” Contrary to what many claim, Mesa contents that the FDA really is “quite independent”—meaning it’s not swayed by special interests or politics.

Hopefully Kennedy’s ‘reward’ will push research further and provide clearer answers or at least get us asking the right questions.

“I find it ironic,” Mesa says, “that people who eschew vaccines [for lack of regulation and study] will take 40 supplements—none of which are regulated or studied.”

Chances are the vaccine debate will not be settled any time soon, but perhaps Kennedy’s “reward” will push research further and provide clearer answers or at least get us asking the right questions.

In the meantime, staying informed and having health care professionals we trust will continue to be good medicine, as common sense tells us that decisions about what’s right and safe for our families are best made in conversation with our trusted doctors.

Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira is the author of five books and is a columnist for Her.meneutics and ThinkChristian. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, three kids, and one red-nose pit bull. Visit her at

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