Chicken pox vaccine associated with shingles epidemic
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Chicken pox vaccine associated with shingles epidemic

Medical Research News

Published: Thursday, 1-Sep-2005

New research published in the International Journal of Toxicology (IJT) by Gary S. Goldman, Ph.D., reveals high rates of shingles (herpes zoster) in Americans since the government's 1995 recommendation that all children receive chicken pox vaccine.

Goldman's research supports that shingles, which results in three times as many deaths and five times the number of hospitalizations as chicken pox, is suppressed naturally by occasional contact with chicken pox.


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. Another recent peer-reviewed article authored by Dr. Goldman and published in Vaccine presents a cost-benefit analysis of the universal chicken pox (varicella) vaccination program.


Goldman points out that during a 50-year time span, there would be an estimated additional 14.6 million (42%) shingles cases among adults aged less than 50 years, presenting society with a substantial additional medical cost burden of $4.1 billion.


This translates into $80 million annually, utilizing an estimated mean healthcare provider cost of $280 per shingles case.


After a child has had varicella (chickenpox), the virus becomes dormant and can reactivate later in adulthood in a closely related disease called shingles--both caused by the same varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It has long been known that adults receive natural boosting from contact with children infected with chicken pox that helps prevent the reactivation of shingles.


Based on Dr. Goldman's earlier communications with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Goldman maintains that epidemiologists from the CDC are hoping "any possible shingles epidemic associated with the chickenpox vaccine can be offset by treating adults with a 'shingles' vaccine." This intervention would substitute for the boosting adults previously received naturally, especially during seasonal outbreaks of the formerly common childhood disease.


"Using a shingles vaccine to control shingles epidemics in adults would likely fail because adult vaccination programs have rarely proved successful," said Goldman. "There appears to be no way to avoid a mass epidemic of shingles lasting as long as several generations among adults."

Goldman's analysis in IJT indicates that effectiveness of the chickenpox vaccine itself is also dependent on natural boosting, so that as chickenpox declines, so does the effectiveness of the vaccine.


"The principal reason that vaccinees in Japan maintained high levels of immunity 20 years following vaccination was that only 1 in 5 (or 20%) of Japanese children were vaccinated," he said. "So those vaccinated received immunologic boosting from contact with children with natural chickenpox. But the universal varicella vaccination program in the U.S. will nearly eradicate this natural boosting mechanism and will leave our population vulnerable to shingles epidemics."


For decades it was thought shingles increased with age as older individuals' immune systems declined. However, Goldman's new research shows this phenomenon seemed primarily due to the fact that older people received fewer natural boosts to immunity as their contacts with young children declined.


Gary S. Goldman, Ph.D. served for eight years as a Research Analyst with the Varicella Active Surveillance Project conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (LACDHS). The project was funded by the CDC.


About Gary S. Goldman, Ph.D.: Currently serves as Founder and Editor-in- Chief of the peer-reviewed medical journal Medical Veritas ( Has recently authored five manuscripts concerning varicella, herpes zoster, and capture-recapture published in the European journal called Vaccine.


Research published in the International Journal of Toxicology, 24(4):205-213, Universal Varicella Vaccination: Efficacy Trends and Effect on Herpes Zoster. Also, Vaccine, 23(25):3349-3355, Cost-benefit analysis of universal varicella vaccination in the U.S. taking into account the closely related herpes zoster epidemiology.


S.A.G. ~ Kathy ~ Sanguine-choleric. Have fun...or else.

Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi, quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

I never had any of the childhood diseases...and was afraid of getting chicken pox from my children because I'd heard that it was serious for adults.  So I got the vaccine and so did my two kids. 

Now what?

My gramps, God rest his soul, had a horrible case of shingles the last year of his life.  Couldn't take any pain meds cause they made him violently ill.  I've never seen someone suffer that much.  It was awful.
My mom, who is still younger (in her early 50's) was affected by shingles this year.  She'll be interested in the article.  She said that it felt as though she only had her inner layer of skin - like she had a layer peeled off and her raw skin was exposed.  She couldn't use lotions, etc...because of the pain.  She never saw a doctor, though.  It sounds miserable, and takes a long time to heal.

FWIW we do some vaccines, but not chicken pox.
I had shingles.  It was horrible.

My rule of thumb is: If the government wants to put something into my body, It's probably a bad idea.

That goes for flu shots, vaccines that aren't proven necessary, and rectal exams when I get hit on the head.

When I get older I may get flu shots, but for now I'll rely on my immune system like I have for the last 40 or so years.  Don't get me wrong, the flu is serious, but so is getting injected.

My kids got that darn vaccine, but they ended up with chicken pox anyhow.


I'd be interested to know just how severe were the cases of chicken pox your children got? 

I'm a RN, and work in the extablished medical world and so am perhaps a bit prejudiced.  However, I can tell you that I have seen several cases of shingles, which generally occur in someone who has had chicken pox; the virus doesn't leave the body but becomes dormant in nerve endings and possibly inflaming during times of physical or mental stress.  I've never seen any deaths with it, but lots of pain.  It is a unilateral disease, affecting one side of the body or the other, and presenting with severe pain and possibly a rash on the same side of the body that the pain affects.

I thought my children had already had chicken pox so I didn't get them vaccinated when the vaccine first appeared, although I could have easily brought the vaccine home for them.  When my oldest son was 17 and my youngest was 14, they contracted chicken pox.  The oldest, Matt, got a few small spots and a fever, and was upset that he couldn't go to his part-time job.  The younger son, Kevin, developed a total body rash, including in his eyes, mouth, ears.  The largest blister, on his back, was about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.  He was ill for several weeks, then developed meningitis as a secondary infection, then a bleeding disorder known as ITP (very low platelets due to severe infection).  Ultimately, he was ill for about 8 months and nearly died.

I know there are many complaints against vaccines and there may be reason to space them, or research them.  However, if you see an epidemic (my Norwegian grandmother and her twin baby girls died of the Spanish 'flu epidemic in the early 20th century) or a pandemic, you might understand the rationale behind the vaccines. 

In my work I am frequently in nursing homes.  When a stomach bug makes the rounds, we must quarantine the floor or unit, and restrict visitors.  If influenza were to get hold, we would likely lose a large number of peoples' loved ones.  Even with vaccines, 'flu kills people every year, but not nearly as many as in the pre-vaccine days.  Look at the statistics for the various epidemics of the past.   

I have gotten the 'flu vaccine every year for the past 20 years, and received the pneumonia vaccine as well as the hepatitis B series.  I frankly don't want these diseases and I don't want to give them to my loved ones.

There are some caualties from the vaccines.  My sister, a nurse practitioner, won a huge settlement from the federal government when her baby died after a vaccine.  The government now allows the least toxic one (which it had prohibited because of money). 

That said, there will be 'negative outcomes' from vaccines: eg, death or serious reaction.  But there will be far fewer deaths than have occurred from epidemics.  Just look at the statistics from the 'flu, diptheria, pertussis, and polio epidemics of the past.  When it comes to statistics, fewer deaths is better than many deaths.

Quote:That said, there will be 'negative outcomes' from vaccines: eg, death or serious reaction.  But there will be far fewer deaths than have occurred from epidemics.  Just look at the statistics from the 'flu, diptheria, pertussis, and polio epidemics of the past.  When it comes to statistics, fewer deaths is better than many deaths.

When my parents were pondering the whole vaccine issue when we were growing up, my great-aunt quietly told them, "Go for a walk in the cemetaries. Walk back into the older sections and see how many young children there are who died." It's the chilling truth and helped my parents decide what to do. Those diseases that are barely notieable today killed so many children back then.


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