Proposal to ban vaccine ingredient will have to wait

Preservative containing mercury raises health concerns for some

? In the final days of the legislative session, a proposal to ban thimerosal from vaccines was revived briefly.

But in the crush of last-minute business, the measure stalled in committee, much to the disappointment of a Lawrence woman who fought for the bill. The session ended May 10.

“I guess we will have to wait,” Linda Weinmaster said.

Thimerosal is at the center of a fierce worldwide debate. It is used as a preservative in some vaccines and other health care products, but it is made up of 50 percent mercury, which is a known toxin.

Weinmaster and thousands of other parents have blamed thimerosal for their children’s disorders and the recent increase in the number of autistic children. Weinmaster’s 14-year-old son Adam has several impairments.

At least six states have banned or are phasing out thimerosal in childhood vaccines, though no official study has determined there is a link between the compound and autism.

Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, chairman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, said he was confident that a Kansas ban on thimerosal would be approved in 2007.

“We’re a lot closer to having it move next session,” Barnett, a physician, said.

Barnett initially took no action on the bill after it was opposed by medical groups. Some were concerned the ban might limit the supply of flu vaccine, prevent Kansans from getting travel vaccinations and affect the availability of snake and spider antivenins, which contain mercury.

But then Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka made amendments to the original bill to narrow its scope.

In the last week of the session, Barnett called a meeting to discuss the changes and possibly advance the bill.

Still, some committee members said they didn’t want to get rushed into making a decision at the end of the session.

“We don’t have time at this juncture,” said Sen. Vickie Schmidt, R-Topeka. At that point, legislative leaders made it clear they wanted to focus on several issues – education, criminal justice and tax cuts – to bring the session to an end.

“I will pre-file and introduce the bill with those amendments” before the 2007 session, which starts in January, Hensley said.

While Weinmaster was disappointed no action was taken this year, she said, “We’ll keep plugging away and hopefully we can save some kids.”