Why a Shingles Epidemic is Bolting Straight at the U.S.
Posted By Dr. Mercola | November 02 2010
Diane Murphy, MD, is the Director of the FDA's Office of Pediatric Therapeutics (OPT). The mission of OPT is to enforce a Congressional mandate that assures access for children to innovative, safe and effective medical products.
Historically, many medical products have not been tested for use in children, leading to an increase in adverse events and the use of ineffective products.
Murphy notes that young children and neonates require the development of a new directional endpoint that can better help us to not treat children with our best guess, but with knowledge.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
It's now been fifteen years since Merck's chickenpox vaccine was approved for market.
What had always been regarded as a relatively benign childhood illness was suddenly reinvented in the 1990s as a life-threatening disease for which children must get vaccinated or face dire health consequences.
But wait—Merck to the rescue!
As is true with many new and potentially unnecessary medical interventions used on a widespread basis, there are often unintended consequences. The chickenpox (varicella) vaccine is a perfect example.
By trying to prevent all children from experiencing chickenpox naturally, this policy may have actually created a NEW epidemic—not in children but in adults, especially elderly adults.
Vaccinating children for chickenpox may very well be causing a shingles epidemic.
Chickenpox—Another False Epidemic
Before the live virus chickenpox vaccine was licensed in the United States in 1995, most children acquired a natural, long-lasting immunity to chickenpox by age six. For 99.9 percent of healthy children, chickenpox is a mild disease without complications.
It is estimated there were about 3.7 million cases of chickenpox annually in the U.S. before 1995, resulting in an average of 100 deaths (50 children and 50 adults, most of whom were immunocompromised). This hardly represents a dire, life-threatening epidemic that requires mass vaccination of all children!
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which is a member of the herpesvirus family and is associated with herpes zoster (shingles). Chickenpox is highly contagious but typically produces a mild disease characterized by small round lesions on your skin that cause intense itching. Chickenpox lasts for two to three weeks, and recovery leaves a child with long lasting immunity.
Half of all cases of chickenpox occur in children ages five to nine. Before the vaccine was licensed in 1995 and states started passing laws mandating that children get it to attend school, it was estimated that only 10 percent of Americans over the age of 15 had not had chickenpox.
Up to 20 percent of adults who get chickenpox develop severe complications such as pneumonia, secondary bacterial infections, and brain inflammation (which is reported in less than one percent of children who get chickenpox). Most children and adults who develop these serious complications have compromised immune systems or other health problems.
Although chickenpox is typically not dangerous, there is a related disease that is more of a cause for concern: shingles.
Chickenpox's Evil Cousin: Shingles
Chickenpox and shingles are related. They are caused by similar viruses, both in the herpesvirus family. After you recover from chickenpox, the virus can remain dormant ("asleep") in your nerve roots for many years, unless it is awakened by some triggering factor such as physical or emotional stress. When awakened, it presents itself as shingles rather than chickenpox.
Shingles is marked by pain and often a blister-like rash on one side of your body, left or right. Other symptoms can include headache and flu-like symptoms. Shingles typically runs its course in three to five weeks.
Although very painful, most people who get shingles will recover without serious complications and will not get it a second time. However, in people with weakened immune systems, shingles complications can be severe or life threatening. The most common complication is postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN, where the pain may last for months or even years after the rash has healed. The pain is caused by damaged nerve fibers, which then persist in sending pain messages to your brain.
Other less frequent complications include bacterial skin infections, Hutchinson's sign, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, motor neuropathy, meningitis, hearing loss, blindness, and bladder impairment.
A person with shingles can infect someone who hasn't had chickenpox, who may then develop chickenpox rather than shingles.
If you do develop shingles, as I mentioned earlier this summer, you can use topical honey to treat shingles symptoms and it appears to work better than the drugs.
Chickenpox is Nature's Way of Protecting You from Shingles
Nature has devised an elegant plan for protecting you from the shingles virus.
After contracting and recovering from chickenpox (usually as a child), as you age, your natural immunity gets asymptomatically "boosted" by coming into contact with infected children, who are recovering from chickenpox. This natural "boosting" of natural immunity to the varicella (chickenpox) virus helps protect you from getting shingles later in life.
This is true whether you are a child, adolescent, young adult, or elderly—every time you come into contact with someone infected with chickenpox, you get a natural "booster shot" that protects you from a painful—and expensive—bout with shingles.
In other words, shingles can be prevented by ordinary contact, such as receiving a hug from a grandchild who is getting or recovering from the chickenpox. But with the advent of the chickenpox vaccine, there is less chickenpox around to provide that natural immune boost for children AND adults.
So as chickenpox rates have declined, shingles rates have begun to rise, and there is mounting evidence that an epidemic of shingles is developing in America from the mass, mandatory use of the chickenpox vaccine by all children.
As hard as scientists try to come up with ways to "improve" human biology, they just can't outsmart Mother Nature.. In trying to tinker with the natural order of things, we tend to destroy processes that nature has masterfully orchestrated to keep us healthy.
This dance between chickenpox and shingles is a perfect example.
Vaccine Protection is Only Temporary
The chickenpox vaccine is made from live, attenuated (weakened) varicella virus. But chickenpox vaccine provides only TEMPORARY immunity, and even that immunity is not the same kind of superior, longer lasting immunity that you get when you recover naturally from chickenpox.
It's important to realize that naturally acquiring a case of chickenpox is the ONLY way you can establish longer lasting immunity that will protect you until you come in contact with younger children with chickenpox and are asymptomatically boosted, which will not only reinforce your chickenpox immunity but will also help protect you against getting a painful case of shingles later in life.
When the chickenpox vaccine was licensed for public use in 1995, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimated it was 70 to 90 percent effective in preventing disease. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) later reported, "The effectiveness of the vaccine is 44 percent against disease of any severity and 86 percent against moderate or severe disease."
But the vaccine may be LESS effective than that—around 40 percent—according to an investigation of a chickenpox outbreak among 23 children at a New Hampshire daycare center. The outbreak began with a child who had already been vaccinated.
And a Washington Post article reported that, in another outbreak, 75 percent of the children who came down with chickenpox had previously been vaccinated for it!
It is also interesting to note that most 10 year-old children with no known history of chickenpox are actually immune.
A study in Quebec, Canada, involving 2,000 fourth graders was done to determine the proportion of children who would need to be vaccinated in a "catch-up" program.
Of the youngsters with negative or unknown chickenpox histories, 63 percent had antibodies against the virus, presumably from having had such a mild case that they didn't even realize they had it. This isn't terribly surprising given that healthy children occasionally have minimal symptoms (such as a low fever and headache), without manifestation of blisters, indistinguishable from a mild case of the flu.
Bottom line is, the vast majority of children who do NOT get the chickenpox vaccine wind up immune to chickenpox anyway.
The Chickenpox Vaccine Itself Can Cause Injury or Death
As is true with most vaccines, mass use of the chickenpox vaccine has been followed by many reports of serious reactions, injuries and deaths.
Before consenting to your child's receiving this vaccine, consider the following:
- Between March 1995 and July 1998, the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) received 6,574 reports of health problems after chickenpox vaccination. This translates to: one in 1,481 chickenpox vaccinations is followed by an adverse health event.
- Four percent of reported adverse events (about 1 in 33,000 doses) involves serious health problems such as shock, encephalitis (brain inflammation), and thrombocytopenia (a blood disorder)
- 14 of the 6,574 chickenpox vaccine adverse event reports ended in death
- As a result of the reported vaccine reactions, 17 warnings for adverse events were added to the manufacturer's product labelAFTER the vaccine was licensed and being used on a mass basis (including cellulitis, transverse myelitis, Guillain Barre syndrome, and shingles)
- There have been documented cases of accidental transmission of varicella vaccine strain virus from a vaccinated child to household contacts, including transmission to a pregnant woman
- Adverse vaccine events are notoriously underreported—by as much as 90 percent, according to some experts—making the safety profile potentially even worse than the above statistics would suggest
The chickenpox vaccine may be even more risky when combined with other vaccines, like MMR.
"We have been getting reports from parents that their children are suffering high fevers, chickenpox lesions, shingles, brain damage and dying after chicken pox vaccination, especially when the vaccine is given at the same time with MMR and other vaccines."
Many questions remain unanswered.
For example, will a young pregnant woman, who got varicella vaccine as a child instead of recovering from natural chickenpox, pass on vaccine induced antibodies to her newborn baby like mothers used to pass on natural maternal antibodies to chickenpox to their newborns?
This is one of many questions about mass use of chickenpox vaccine that is being debated today.
The Birth of an Epidemic
Now, 15 years into the mass use of chickenpox vaccine, there are signs a shingles epidemic is underway.
This is not surprising when you consider that the mechanism keeping shingles largely at bay has been drastically reduced, if not eliminated because older children and adults are no longer coming into contact with younger children experiencing chickenpox and there is less and less natural "boosting" of immunity occurring in our population.
The natural "herd" immunity to chickenpox among Americans is being lost and we are becoming vaccine dependent. PLUS a shingles epidemic is taking shape.
Research done by Gary S. Goldman, Ph.D. who served for eight years as a Research Analyst with the Varicella Active Surveillance Project in Los Angeles County with funding from the CDC, revealed higher rates of shingles in Americans since the government's 1995 recommendation that all children receive chickenpox vaccine.
According to an article describing his work:
"Dr. Goldman's findings have corroborated other independent researchers who estimate that if chickenpox were to be nearly eradicated by vaccination, the higher number of shingles cases could continue in the U.S. for up to 50 years; and that while death rates from chickenpox are already very low, any deaths prevented by vaccination will be offset by deaths from increasing shingles disease. (Emphasis mine)
Goldman was so concerned about an epidemic of shingles that he has co-written a book on the matter, entitled The Chickenpox Vaccine: A New Epidemic of Disease and Corruption.
Dr. Goldman isn't the only one who is concerned about a potential shingles epidemic.
A team at Britain's Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) found that adults living with children enjoy higher levels of protection from shingles. They stated that, although chickenpox can be life threatening for the immune compromised, thousands of elderly people could also die from the complications of shingles. PHLS called for a re-evaluation of the policy of mass chickenpox vaccination in the U.S., as well as other countries implementing this practice.
For decades, shingles was thought to increase with age as older individuals' immune systems weakened. However, research suggests this phenomenon is more a result of the fact that older people receive fewer natural boosts to immunity as their contacts with young children decline.
In fact, the effectiveness of the chickenpox vaccine itself depends on natural boosting, so as chickenpox disease rates decline, so will the effectiveness of the vaccine.
Are These Predictions Coming True?
The incidence of adult shingles has increased by 90 percent from 1998 to 2003, following the release of the chickenpox vaccine for mass use. Shingles results in three times as many deaths and five times as many hospitalizations as chickenpox, and accounts for 75 percent of all medical costs associated with the varicella zoster virus.
Even children are beginning to come down with shingles, as evidenced by school nurse reports since 2000, which was one of the concerns prompting Dr. Goldman to warn the CDC that it may be bringing about a shingles epidemic.
Prior to chickenpox vaccination, shingles was seen only in adults.
All evidence points to the fact that we have traded a relatively mild illness (chickenpox), which does NOT involve complications for 99.9 percent of healthy children, for a more serious illness in our elderly (shingles) that has the potential for compromising the health of an entire population.
Another peer-reviewed article by Dr. Goldman presents a cost-benefit analysis of the chickenpox vaccination program, with disturbing findings. Chickenpox vaccine would have to be universally used for at least 50 years to demonstrate a cost benefit, due to the substantial additional medical cost of a shingles epidemic. This is CLEARLY not worth it, when chickenpox disease presented such minimal risk to society in the first place!
What do you think was the CDC's answer to a potential shingles epidemic, when presented with Goldman's findings?
Another vaccine—of course.
Merck – the pharmaceutical giant that makes the chickenpox vaccine - rides in on their white horse with the very answer the CDC was hoping for: A shingles vaccine! Yes, shingles vaccine was developed by the same manufacturer who markets and is the sole source of chickenpox vaccine in America.
What an incredible profit-making scheme – the same drug company that profits from mass, mandatory use of the chicken pox vaccine also profits from sales of a shingles vaccine in a market created by the chickenpox vaccine!
Sound the Horns! Merck "to the Rescue"—Again!
The FDA approved Merck's shingles vaccine (Zostavax) for use in people age 60 and older in May of 2006. So they have come out with a vaccine (shingles) to reverse the damages to your health caused by their earlier vaccine (chickenpox).
It is very much like the polypharmacy used to "treat" chronic disease. You get a drug to supposedly make you better, but it causes adverse side effects, so you are given another drug to treat those side effects. Then, THAT drug creates more problems, and pretty soon, no one can tell what's causing what, and down the drain of poor health you go.
Meanwhile, you are taking a long list of drugs, and the only people truly benefiting are the pharmaceutical companies who make money each step of the way.
In the case of varicella vaccines, they are profiting from the cause of an epidemic, as well as the supposed cure...
But is it REALLY a cure? Will a shingles vaccine prevent a shingles epidemic?
Vaccines: Public Health or Profit Center
Adult vaccination programs have rarely proved successful.
The cost of the shingles vaccine itself ($200) is prohibitive, especially for many older Americans struggling to meet monthly expenses on fixed incomes. Research shows that few adults are making use of it.
And what unanticipated health effects might the shingles vaccine have on the elderly—particularly those who are immunosuppressed or already challenged with chronic illness or cancer?
The conflicts of interest between vaccine manufacturers and vaccine researchers, and government bodies entangled with both, represent another layer of trouble.
How reliable and unbiased is the vaccine information you get if it's provided by researchers with financial ties to both vaccine manufacturers and government health agencies promoting mass, mandatory use of vaccines?
"When research is sponsored by agencies that promote vaccination, and reimbursed by the pharmaceutical company itself, and receive enrichment by immunizing children, my experience is that they demonstrate certain biases which allow them to continue operating as profit centers and unfortunately, at least sometimes promoting vaccination to the detriment of public health."
Hundreds of Vaccines on the Way
U.S. public health doctors say your child should receive 69 doses of 16 different vaccines before age 18. And 145 more are on the way! Yes, believe it or not, Big Pharma has 145 more vaccines in the pipeline and most are in their final stages of approval, in clinical trials or under FDA review.
Vaccine Awareness Week: November 1 -- November 6, 2010
Mercola.com & the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) have dedicated the first week of November as Vaccine Awareness Week!
In a collaborative effort to raise public awareness about important vaccination issues, Dr. Joseph Mercola and NVIC have been publishing a series of articles and interviews on vaccine topics of interest to Mercola.com newsletter subscribers and NVIC Vaccine E-newsletter readers. The article you've just finished reading is one of those.
Vaccine Awareness Week arose from the following shared goals:
- Raising public awareness about the need to take an active role in preventing vaccine injuries and deaths
- Protecting and expanding legal exemptions to vaccination by securing broad medical, religious and conscientious belief exemptions in all state vaccine laws
- Promoting the human right to voluntary, informed consent to medical risk-taking, including vaccination
- Raising funds for NVIC, a non-profit charity that has been working since 1982 to educate the public about vaccination and defend the ethical principle of informed consent.
My Appeal to You
Don't sit this one out! We've got them "on the run."
Tell everyone. Tell your friends, your family. With a little bit of effort, you can make significant strides toward preserving your freedom to make VOLUNTARY health care choices – including vaccination choices – that affect you and your children's health and future.
This week, NVIC has launched the NVIC Advocacy Portal , an online interactive database and communications network, that gives you the tools you need to take action to protect legal, medical, religious and conscientious belief exemptions to vaccination in YOUR state.
Go there now and register! And while you're at it, please make a donation to NVIC so they can continue fighting to preserve our freedom of make voluntary health choices.
Your Donations to the NVIC help fund efforts that raise vaccine awareness, including the following excellent vaccine resources:
- State Vaccine Requirements
- Influenza Mini Guide Ebook
- Special Report: Influenza Vaccine Mandates Ineffective & Unwise
- Are You Over Vaccinating Your Child?
- Vaccine Ingredients Calculator
- How to Legally Avoid Immunizations
For more vaccine related news and information, visit the Mercola vaccine information site.
Stay tuned to this newsletter for more updates, or follow the National Vaccine Information Center on Facebook. Together we CAN make a difference!