|Pastor campaigns against mercury in vaccines|
April 21, 2006
The Rev. Lisa Sykes
A UMNS Report
By Kelly C. Martini*
For the first two years of his life, Wesley appeared to be a normal,
healthy child, smiling in baby pictures with his brother and family.
By his third birthday, however, Wesley’s
childhood pictures changed. The life in his eyes appeared lost. His
smile was no longer there. His mother could scream his name, and Wesley
would not respond.
The Rev. Lisa K. Sykes, a pastor in
Richmond, Va., sought medical help for her son. Doctors diagnosed him
with autism, then tested him for heavy metal poisoning. Tests showed he
had mercury levels in his blood stream exceeding danger levels.
For Sykes, the devastating news came when
she discovered the vaccines and common shots, administered to her
during pregnancy and to her child as an infant, had contained mercury, a
documented poison at certain levels.
"Neither my physicians nor I knew mercury
was present in these pharmaceuticals because it comprised part of an
antiquated preservative that was, and still is, labeled as Thimerosal,"
Sykes told directors of the Women's Division of the United Methodist
Board of Global Ministries. She spoke at the directors' April meeting in
Several childhood vaccines and the Rho
Gam shot given to some women during pregnancy contained Thimerosal until
1999, when companies removed it gradually.
However, the flu shot administered to
young children, pregnant women and the elderly still contains the
preservative, according to the Centers for Disease Control Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/.
Other nonstandard immunizations being
used more and more by parents contain Thimerosal, Sykes said. "When you
take something lethal and put it in something lifesaving, does that make
the lethal thing safe, or the lifesaving thing lethal?"
"Along with being denied safe
pharmaceuticals, I also was denied informed consent, making this not
only a medical crisis, but also a crisis of civil — and some say,
constitutional — rights," she said.
'Safe alternatives exist'
|A UMNS photo courtesy of Budgetstockphotos.com
The Women's Division is encouraging United Methodist Women to advocate for changes in safety guidelines for childhood vaccines.
With other concerned parents, Sykes began
a campaign to educate parents, to change legislation, and to make
government regulators and pharmaceutical companies study the issue and
alternative uses of Thimerosal.
She believes a direct correlation exists
between the increasing rate of autism in the United States and the rate
of exposure to the vaccines that contained Thimerosal. She does not
stand alone in stating that certain children have a genetic disposition,
which causes life-long reactions to mercury, such as with autism, and
potentially other childhood disorders. Researchers from John Hopkins,
Columbia, Tufts, Baylor and similar institutions are finding supporting
Dr. Mark Geier, president of the Genetic
Center of America, writes that a decreasing load of mercury in the
immunization schedule in 2003 has produced a falling rate in the
diagnosis of neurodevelopmental disorders three years later.
However, these disorders are expected to increase again, since Thimerosal is beginning to appear in newer vaccines.
"Safe alternatives exist," Sykes told the
Women's Division directors. "But pharmaceutical companies prefer
Thimerosal because it is cheap and allows them to use old factories and
old manufacturing processes."
For four years, Sykes took her cause to
the federal government, health agencies and the Virginia State
Legislature, seeking to get a mercury-ban in pharmaceuticals. Seven
other states have passed mercury-banning legislation, including Iowa,
California, Delaware, Missouri, Illinois, New York and Washington.
According to California Proposition 65,
"Thimerosal has been recognized by the California Environmental
Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, as a
developmental toxin, meaning that it can cause birth defects, low birth
weight, biological dysfunctions, or psychological or behavior deficits
that become manifest as the child grows, and maternal exposure during
pregnancy can disrupt the development or even cause the death of the
fetus. Exposure to mercury in utero and to children may cause mild to
severe mental retardation and mild to severe motor coordination
"When the Centers for Disease Control and
the Food and Drug Administration protest that they have found no
'evidence of harm,' they sidestep the issue that they are required by
law to show proof of safety — clinical proof," Sykes said.
In the Virginia Legislature, the
mercury-banning bill never got out of committee, and a top aide told
Sykes that "your enemies are more powerful than you know." She
disagreed, deciding it was time to enlist the support of the church.
The United Methodist Virginia Conference,
led by Bishop Charlene Kammerer and Virginia United Methodist Women,
passed a resolution on "Protecting Children from Mercury-Containing
Women join fight
For Christians, the issue intensifies
into a moral and ethical issue, as the developing world has passed laws
keyed to those in the United States, after being victimized by unsafe
and cheap pharmaceutical products. If the United States bans Thimerosal,
other countries will do the same thing, forcing companies to provide
them with an alternative drug that costs the companies more, she
Women's Division directors shared her
concern and voted to encourage the nearly 1 million members of United
Methodist Women to advocate for changes in safety guidelines for
The division wants members to call on the
secretary of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug
Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to
protect children from mercury-containing drugs.
They also want members to push for
mercury-free stocks of vaccines and other pharmaceutical products;
prioritize these for pregnant women, newborn infants and children; and
ensure that an "informed consent" form is given to all individuals
regarding mercury exposure through these products.
*Martini is communications director for the Women's Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Methodist Women to explore immigrant rights
Women's Division addresses overspending issues
Centers for Disease Control