- Delivering Truth Around the World
Custom Search

Chicken Pox Vaccine Creates Shingles Epidemic

Dr. Mercola

Smaller Font Larger Font RSS 2.0

Diane Murphy, MD, is the Director of 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 innocuous childhood illness was suddenly reinvented in the 1990s as a life-threatening disease for which children must get vaccinated or face dire peril.

But wait—Merck to the rescue!

As is true with many new and poorly considered medical interventions, there are often unintended consequences. And the chickenpox vaccine is a perfect example.

By preventing children from acquiring chickenpox naturally, this policy may actually create a NEW epidemic—not in children, but in adults. Especially elderly adults.

Vaccinating children for chickenpox may very well cause a shingles epidemic.

Chickenpox—Another False Epidemic

Before 1995, when the chickenpox vaccine was licensed in the United States, most children had already acquired a robust immunity to chickenpox by age 6. 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 to begin with).

This hardly represents an epidemic!

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 the skin that cause intense itching.

Chickenpox lasts for two to three weeks, and recovery usually results in permanent immunity.

Half of all cases of chickenpox occur in children ages 5 to 9. It has been estimated that only 10 percent of Americans over the age of 15 have never 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 to begin with.

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 because they are caused by very similar viruses, both in the herpesvirus family. Once immune to chickenpox, you are usually immune to shingles.

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 include headache and flu-like symptoms. Although painful, most who get shingles will recover and will not get it a second time. Shingles typically runs its course in 3 to 5 weeks.

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.

You can't catch shingles from someone else who has it. But a person with shingles can infect someone who hasn't had chickenpox, who may then develop chickenpox rather than shingles.

Chickenpox is Nature's Way of Protecting You From Shingles

Nature has devised an elegant plan for protecting you from this 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 friends and family who are recovering from chickenpox.

And this natural "boosting" helps protect you from getting shingles.

This is true whether you are a child, adolescent, young adult, or elder—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 good evidence we may be heading for a shingles epidemic.

As good as science is at coming up with ways to "improve" upon human biology, we just can't outsmart nature. And in trying to do so, we tend to screw up 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 it provides only TEMPORARY immunity, and even that immunity is iffy.

So how do you become immune to chickenpox for life?

Naturally acquiring a case of chickenpox is the ONLY way you can establish lifelong, robust immunity.

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 unleashed a deluge of reported adverse reactions.

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 vaccines results in an adverse event.
  • Four percent of reported adverse events (about 1 in 33,000 doses) results in serious problems such as shock, encephalitis, and thrombocytopenia (a blood disorder)
  • 14 of the 6,574 reported cases resulted in death
  • As a result of the reported adverse reactions, 17 warnings for adverse events were added to the manufacturer's product label AFTER the vaccine was in use (including cellulitis, transverse myelitis, Guillain Barre syndrome, and shingles)
  • There have been documented cases of accidental transmission of vaccine 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 even worse than the above statistics would suggest

The chickenpox vaccine is even more dangerous when combined with other vaccines, like MMR.

According to Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC):

"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 an expectant mother, who has been conferred "immunity" by this chickenpox vaccine, be able to pass on sufficient immunity to her newborn baby to protect it?

The answer to this is unknown—just one of the MANY unknowns for this vaccine.

The Birth of an Epidemic

Now, fifteen 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—namely, those ongoing "boosters" by exposure to children infected with chickenpox.

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 under 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 the article:

"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 vaccination may save thousands of lives over time, 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.

We've traded a relatively mild illness (chickenpox), occurring mostly in healthy children, for a more serious illness in our elderly (shingles) that has the potential for damaging 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.

So in rides Merck & Co. on their white horse with the very answer the CDC was hoping for: the shingles vaccine. Yes, shingles vaccine was developed by the same manufacturer who markets and is the sole source of chickenpox vaccine.

To say that this is ironic is certainly the kindest way to put it.

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).

Sound familiar?

It is very much like the polypharmacy used in the "treatment" of 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. Then, THAT drug creates more problems, and pretty soon, no one can tell what's causing what, and down the drain you go. Meanwhile, you are taking a long list of drugs, and the only people truly benefitting 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 a chronic illness or cancer?

The conflicts of interest between vaccine companies and vaccine researchers, and government bodies entangled with both, represent another layer of trouble. What good is the information you get if it's provided by those with ties to special interests?

In the words of Dr. Goldman:

"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."

When looked at in total, not only are vaccines questionable at best for reducing infectious disease, but a huge historical failure when it comes to eradicating human pathogens.

"Vaccines Have Never Eradicated Anything"

In an interesting article about the history of infectious disease, British journalist Christina England makes the case that "vaccines have never eradicated anything, ever."

Consider the situation with whooping cough (pertussis). Despite very high vaccination rates in the U.S. and other countries, whooping cough outbreaks continue. The same can be said of measles, and even smallpox.

And there is substantial evidence that smallpox, despite what you've heard, is not gone but has merely evolved and been renamed "Monkeypox."

These viruses are here to stay. Simply inventing another vaccine will not solve the problem and is more apt to create new ones, trading one problem for another.

U.S. public health officials say your child should receive 69 doses of 16 different vaccines before age 18. And 400 more are on the way! Yes, believe it or not, Big Pharma has 395 new drugs and vaccines in the pipeline to fight infectious disease—all 395 are in their final stages of approval, in clinical trials or under FDA review.

Vaccine Awareness Week: November 1 -- November 6, 2010 & the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) have dedicated the first week of November as Vaccine Awareness Week!

In a lengthy 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 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:

  1. Raising public awareness about the need to take an active role in changing vaccine policy
  2. Prevention of vaccine injuries and deaths
  3. Protection of informed consent—defending your legal rights to make voluntary vaccination choices for your and your family
  4. Raising funds for NVIC, a non-profit charity that has been working since 1982 to educate the public about vaccination

Vaccine Awareness Week, hosted by and NVIC, follows a month-long vaccine awareness effort in October that was recently announced on Facebook by parents highlighting Gardasil vaccine risks.

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 decisions affecting you and your children's future.

NVIC has launched the online State Advocacy Portal that gives you the tools you need to take action in protecting your legal, medical, religious and conscientious belief exemptions to vaccination in YOUR state.

Go there now!

And while you're at it, please make a donation to NVIC so they can continue fighting to preserve your freedom of choice about your healthcare.

For more vaccine related news and information, visit the Mercola vaccine information site.

Written Dec. , 2009

Posted Oct. 21, 2010