Helping Prevent Disruption of the Global Vaccine Supply


Leading up to the final round of negotiations in January 2013 on the Minamata Convention on Mercury (a UNEP-led multi-lateral treaty to restrict human and environmental exposure to mercury), there was considerable debate around whether to exclude thimerosal – an ethyl-mercury containing compound used as a pharmaceutical preservative – from the treaty. Some critics argued that it would be unjust to allow such exclusion, as it would result in continued use of thimerosal in LMICs although it has been all but phased out in wealthier nations. The ESC team built a compelling case that this charge of injustice was misguided and that the real injustice would be to ban thimerosal, thereby causing disruption to the global vaccine supply, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Our case was published in Pediatrics in December 2012 as part of a suite of three commentaries on the thimerosal debate, which were collectively picked up by the New York Times, Time Magazine, Reuters, and a host of online media, and utilized as effective tools to help secure the exclusion of thimerosal from the final Convention.