Thimerosal in Flu Vaccine
Questions & Answers
Thimerosal is an ethyl mercury-based preservative used in vials that contain more than one dose of a vaccine (multi-dose vials) to prevent germs, bacteria and/or fungi from contaminating the vaccine.
Flu vaccines in multi-dose vials contain thimerosal to safeguard against contamination of the vial. Most single-dose vials and pre-filled syringes of flu shot and the nasal spray flu vaccine do not contain a preservative because they are intended to be used once.
A list of available flu vaccines and their thimerosal content is available.
Preservatives are used to protect vaccines packaged in multi-dose vials. Each time a vaccine dose is drawn from a multi-dose vial, bacteria or fungi can enter the vial. Receiving a vaccine contaminated with bacteria or fungi can be dangerous. Preservatives are needed to prevent contamination of multi-dose vials each time individual doses are drawn.
Thimerosal use in vaccines and other medical products has a record of being very safe. Data from many studies show no evidence of harm caused by the low doses of thimerosal in vaccines.
- Page last reviewed: October 16, 2015
- Page last updated: November 2, 2017
- Content source:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs