Varicella Vaccine and How it Has Changed the Chicken Pox Story

shingles rates  The study, “Impact of Vaccination on the Epidemiology of Varicella: 1995–2009,” in the periodical Pediatrics, found that, “between1995 and 2009, the overall incidence of Varicella in 5 to 19-year-olds decreased from 25.8 to 1.3 per 1000 person-years, a ∼90% to 95% decline.” You can read this here… They claim this was without a corresponding increase in Varicella disease in the elderly, which we now know to be false. There has been a steady rise in shingles and Varicella disease, in the elderly especially.

We live in this era of “vaccines are safe” when in fact we don’t fully know the long-term safety of the program since each time a new vaccine is added,  it can take decades to see the real end result on the population. Our growing experience with Varicella (Chicken pox) has some wondering if this program will, in the end, have been a good thing. While the vaccine is relatively safe and fairly effective, an unintended consequence is the rise of shingles in the elderly with huge increases in pain and suffering and deaths that may continue to grow as more and more people age that have not had the benefit of naturally getting their Varicella boosted by being around children with Varicella. In the study, “Herpes zoster-related deaths in the United States: validity of death certificates and mortality rates, 1979-2007,”  (which can be read here… ) authors report, “nationally, in the 7 years preceding the HZ vaccination program, the average annual number of deaths in which HZ was reported as the underlying cause of death was 149,” and go on to hypothesize that the true numbers might be half that . They mention the rising deaths from zoster in the elderly, but do not give the statistics.

The CDC reports about 100 shingles deaths a year in the elderly. (read more… )  The study, “Examination of Links Between Herpes Zoster Incidence and Childhood Varicella Vaccination,”   shows a steady rise in shingles cases by about 4 in every 1000 people over the past 20 years that we have been vaccinating. You can read this study here…

Here is just another example of the outcomes of our national vaccine program being complicated. The CDC states that Varicella used to cause about 100 deaths a year.

“From data provided by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the number of deaths with Varicella listed as an underlying cause has declined 78%, decreasing from 0.41 deaths per 1,000,000  in 1990-1994 to 0.14 in 1999-2001. The greatest reduction in mortality rates occurred among children aged 1 to 4 years.” Read more… Clearly, as we decreased the deaths from chicken pox we have increased the deaths from shingles.  I don’t see an analysis comparing these numbers, but it appears overall that our Varicella vaccine program may have made matters worse.



Dr. Paul



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