The Shingles Vaccine: Help or Hype?
Sarah The Health Economist
Pharmacies are pushing very hard to promote the shingles vaccine in my local community at the moment. Signs are everywhere for adults 60 and older to get the “recommended” shingles vaccine and that they are available every single day!
At $219 plus tax per jab, the shingles vaccine is certainly not cheap – that much is certain.
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There’s no doubt that shingles represents a clear threat to the health of seniors. My Mother had a terrible time with shingles a few years ago and my Great Grandmother apparently died from the postherpetic neuralgia which is the most concerning aftermath of shingles.
Then again, she was over 100 at that time and anything at that age, even the common cold, would represent a serious health threat.
Shingles vaccine effectiveness only about 50%
The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) has this to say about the shingles vaccine on its FAQ page:
◾There is one live virus shingles vaccine, licensed in 2006, for use in the U.S. by adults over 50 years: Zostavax, manufactured by Merck;
◾The CDC now recommends adults 60 years and older receive one dose of shingles vaccine;
◾Reported complications from shingles vaccine include local swelling, pain and redness at injection site; zoster-like skin rash, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, fever, abnormally swollen glands and hypersensitivity reactions including anaphylaxis (shock);
◾Shingles vaccine effectiveness is reported to be about 51 percent;
◾The shingles vaccine contains live attenuated varicella zoster virus and vaccine strain virus transmission from the vaccinated to susceptible individuals has been reported;
◾Mass use of chickenpox vaccine by children in the U.S. since 1995 has limited natural boosting of Varicella Zoster immunity in the adult population and there has been a significant increase in cases of Herpes zoster among adults.
Very interesting! Mass vaccination of children for chicken pox has apparently triggered a large increase in shingles in the adult population. So what has Merck done? It simply repackaged the chicken pox vaccine as Zostovax and made it approximately 14 times stronger.
In essence then, the shingles vaccine is just the chicken pox vaccine 14X stronger and yet it still only boasts an effectiveness rate of 51 percent. That piece of data alone should give most people considering this shot some serious pause.
Contraindications for the shingles vaccine
The CDC recommends that the shingles vaccine not be received by the following individuals:
◾Women who are pregnant or who might become pregnant within 3 months.
◾Persons who are immunosuppressed or immune deficient, such as those with a history of leukemia, lymphoma or other disorders affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, AIDS or those on immunosuppressive therapy.
◾Those individuals who are experiencing an acute illness or fever.
In addition, people who have experienced a previous severe allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin should not get the shingles vaccine.
Reported side effects of the shingles vaccine include:
◾Local swelling, pain and redness at injection site
◾Shingles like rash
◾Headache, joint pain, muscle pain, fever
◾Abnormally swollen glands
Shingles vaccine contains consensually aborted fetal cell tissue
Let’s dig a little further. The ingredients of the shingles vaccine according to the product information insert consist the following:
“ZOSTAVAX is a lyophilized preparation of the Oka/Merck strain of live, attenuated varicella-zoster virus (VZV). ZOSTAVAX, when reconstituted as directed, is a sterile suspension for subcutaneous administration. Each 0.65-mL dose contains a minimum of 19,400 PFU (plaque-forming units) of Oka/Merck strain of VZV when reconstituted and stored at room temperature for up to 30 minutes. Each dose contains 31.16 mg of sucrose, 15.58 mg of hydrolyzed porcine gelatin, 3.99 mg of sodium chloride, 0.62 mg of monosodium L-glutamate (MSG), 0.57 mg of sodium phosphate dibasic, 0.10 mg of potassium phosphate monobasic, 0.10 mg of potassium chloride; residual components of MRC-5 cells including DNA and protein; and trace quantities of neomycin and bovine calf serum. The product contains no preservatives.”
The good news is that there isn’t any thimerosal or aluminum in the shingles vaccine. The bad news is that there is MSG in there along with aborted fetal cell tissue. MRC-5 cells are actually the following:
“The MRC-5 cell line was developed in September 1966 from lung tissue taken from a 14 week fetus aborted for psychiatric reason from a 27 year old physically healthy woman.”
If one is philosophically opposed to abortion then, the shingles vaccine would represent a blood money exchange for a supposed increase in immunity from the Herpes zoster virus (shingles).
Does the shingles vaccine really help at all?
No doubt the worst part of a shingles infection is the risk for postherpetic neuralgia which can be so debilitating for seniors who experience it. This neuralgia which can persist for months is apparently what sucked the life right out of my Great Grandmother eventually killing her.
Even if the shingles vaccine didn’t help reduce infections at all but significantly reduced postherpetic neuralgia, that would be very promising.
Once again however, the marketing versus the actual reality are quite different.
According to David Brownstein MD who has examined the effectiveness of the shingles vaccine, the reduction in postherpetic neuralgia from the shingles vaccine is so small it is nearly insignificant. He states:
“Merck, touts a 39% decline with the use of the vaccine. Further analysis of the data might lead you to a different conclusion. Approximately 0.4% of unvaccinated persons versus 0.14% of vaccinated people developed postherpetic neuralgia. The 39% decline is the less-than-accurate ‘relative risk’ (0.14/ 0.4). If we looked at the more accurate absolute risk, we come up with a decline of 0.26% of postherpetic neuralgia in those that were vaccinated.”
What? A measly .26% decline in the risk of postherpetic neuralgia by getting the shingles vaccine?
It would seem that the $220 for the shingles vaccine would be much better spent on an investment in fermented cod liver oil and butter oil, used in healthy, disease free Traditional Cultures and proven by the research of Dr. Weston A. Price to significantly improve immunity and overall immune function which is what truly prevents the shingles in the first place.
September 20, 2012