By Teresa Conrick
I usually write about my daughter, Megan, and her many medical issues related to her vaccine injuries. I am detouring you all briefly to describe a recent bout of Shingles that I have been dealing with as it relates to Megan, autism and a pattern that we have seen. Let me also point out that Shingles usually occurs in OLDER folks - and though I am enjoying the last days of my 4th decade - I am not the older that they mean - usually 60+ in years - but hold on to that fact as I'm going to revisit it down below. As vaccine names and amounts have increased, so have disabling idiopathic and chronic conditions brought on by illness and injury. Shingles, (herpes zoster) is a painful, blistering skin rash due to the varicella-zoster virus, the virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles also has been discussed as being directly related to the use in our country of a vaccine to fight varicella zoster - chicken pox, instead of natural immunity.
I am now weeks into this illness, minimal blisters but they are VERY painful and I am dreadfully exhausted! My right side is the affected side (shingles usually stays only on one side) and unfortunately, my eye is involved. As I type this, I have my 2nd appointment tomorrow at the ophthalmologist. I will also add that I am the youngest of seven children and my sibs were generous in passing down to me all their childhood illnesses, including Chicken Pox, back in the day. As I have shared with people about my having Shingles, these two responses show what many in the outside, autism world think - 1) Oh, You must have gotten that because you have so much stress and 2) Oh, I heard about that as it's related to measles. SO Wrong!
In 1995, Merck came out with a slugger of a vaccine. Since the "War on Childhood Infectious Diseases" has proven to be such an effective PR tool for many companies who PROFIT ENORMOUSLY from making vaccines, it was inevitable that Varicella or Chicken Pox, the "chicken" of the "poxes", would be added to the list of mandated vaccines. I remember it well as the campaign on its use seemed targeted at working mothers -- kind of an insurance plan to keep your child chicken pox-less so working moms would not have to be at home for the 5-10 days of their child's illness. I know because I had two little redheads whose doctor convinced their mother that vaccination was the working mother AND loving thing to do. How kind of Merck. Now I know some will say children would die without the vaccine but the possible reality flip-side to that is now many, many more older folks can have a severe illness that also can be horribly painful and long-lasting as well as fatal.
The NYT reported (HERE) in 2005 that it was indeed, very possible that Merck's Varivax was causing a surge of Shingles - "But even as the vaccine protects children, questions are arising about whether its use will increase the incidence of a related disease, shingles, in adults."...."Dr. Vásquez, along with a Yale colleague, Dr. Eugene D. Shapiro, wrote a commentary in the current edition of The New England Journal of Medicine that hailed the effectiveness of the vaccine for chickenpox but urged more study of its effects on shingles." Wow, here was an actual article seriously looking at how this new Chicken Pox vaccine from Merck may be about to cause a huge increase in Shingles. I read on in excitement that the NYT was seemingly allied with many of us who look at safety.
"The vaccine has been somewhat controversial and is not routinely used overseas".."One concern in other countries is whether using the vaccine would increase the rate of shingles in adults. Shingles, evidenced by a rash, blisters and pain, can lead to nerve damage called post-herpetic neuralgia that can last for weeks or months and cause excruciating pain, even from the touch of a shirt against the skin."
"Infectious disease modelers at the Health Protection Agency in Britain estimated that shingles might increase 30 percent to 50 percent from vaccination. The harm from that increase would outweigh the benefits of reducing chickenpox rates in children, the modelers said. They conceded that their conclusions rested on assumptions about how much the rate of shingles would increase, which is not known. Dr. Ann M. Arvin, a professor of pediatric infectious disease at Stanford, who has been a consultant to Merck, maker of the chickenpox vaccine, said, "We definitely need to pay attention to this question, but at this point it's a hypothetical question, I think." "I think" was still floating in my head when I saw the abrupt U-Turn of the NYT.
They gave two more damning pieces of evidence that Varivax did indeed appear to be accelerating Shingles: "Kaiser Permanente, a big health maintenance organization, has experienced an increase in hospitalizations for shingles." and "One researcher said the incidence of shingles among unvaccinated children in the Antelope Valley outside Los Angeles was much higher than expected. The valley is one of two locations where the disease control center is closely monitoring the effects of the chickenpox vaccine. The researcher, Dr. Gary S. Goldman, whose degree is in computer science, was a data analyst on the project but said he quit in 2002 because his superiors were trying to suppress the findings on shingles. He managed to have his papers published in the journal Vaccine in 2003."
Then the NYT finally showed their infomercial card - "But if using the vaccine does raise the risk of shingles, the manufacturer also has a solution. Merck has said it will apply in the first half of the year to the Food and Drug Administration for approval of a shingles vaccine for older adults" And that's it, folks! Merck made a vaccine that increased a worse illness and then had the solution available right then and there : A NEW VACCINE FOR SHINGLES!
So it again looks like the NYT can't be trusted in delivering all the news that's fit to print. Here are some important facts we all need to know:
Herpes Zoster–Related Hospitalizations and Expenditures Before and After Introduction of the Varicella Vaccine in the United States (HERE)
"Beginning in 2001, however, the rate of HZHDs (SHINGLES- herpes zoster‐related hospital discharges) overall began to increase, and by 2004 the overall rate was 2.5 HZHDs (95% confidence interval, 2.38–2.62) per 10,000 US population, significantly higher than any of the rates calculated during the years prior to 2002."
"As the rates of VRHDs (Varicella‐related hospital discharges ) and the associated charges have decreased, there has been a significant increase in HZHDs and associated charges, disproportionately among older adults."
"Concerns that increasing immunity against VZV (Varicella‐zoster virus), at the community level, may result in an increase in the incidence of herpes zoster are justified on the basis of the first 9 years of national hospitalization data following the initiation of national varicella vaccination efforts."
"Total annual hospital charges for HZHDs fluctuated between 1993 and 1999 and subsequently increased significantly (Figure 3). Overall, total annual hospital charges for HZHDs increased from $1.2 billion in 1993 to more than $1.9 billion by 2004 (all in 2007 US dollars). Among expected primary payers, Medicare accounted for the largest portion of annual total HZHDs charges, increasing by more than $0.5 billion, from $742 million in 1993 (61.3% of the total) to approximately $1.27 billion (ie, 66.2%) by 2004."
Now the Shingles vaccine is for people 60 years of age and older. I know I had read somewhere that Merck wanted ever so much to make that vaccine available for those 50 and above but the FDA said "no way" so there must be a reason (HERE)
: "There are approximately 50 million Americans over age 60; more than 95 percent had chickenpox as children, making them vulnerable to shingles.
"The market is large," says Christine Fanelle, a spokeswoman for Merck & Co., the vaccine's manufacturer."
It looks like the market was made because the market is about MONEY!
"The company originally sought approval to sell the vaccine to adults 50 and older. But the FDA declined after expert advisors said in December 2005 that Zostavax hadn't been studied in patients younger than 60. The agency also rejected a bid to approve the vaccine for preventing postherpetic neuralgia."......"Markovitz says that doctors may be tempted to offer "off-label" vaccinations to adults age 50 to 59 in hopes of providing earlier protection against shingles...." "I don't think I would rush out and get it myself," Markovitz, who is 52, tells WebMD."
I also want examine that information on the above statement from the NYT: "incidence of shingles among unvaccinated children in the Antelope Valley outside Los Angeles was much higher than expected. The valley is one of two locations where the disease control center is closely monitoring the effects of the chickenpox vaccine." Now is it just me or is that a whole lot of information that is never again addressed by the NYT? Also how odd that the NYT calls our CDC, Center for Disease Control, the name, "disease control center" as if it's some other agency. SO here is the CDC, not the disease control center, addressing this issue of an increase in shingles: (HERE)
"Herpes Zoster after Widespread Vaccine Use
Concerns have been raised over whether the reduction in circulating VZV due to the varicella vaccination program will increase the incidence of herpes zoster. Mathematical models based on the assumption that protection against reactivation of VZV is a result of external boosting (i.e., exposure to cases of varicella disease) alone have suggested that significant increases in herpes zoster incidence will occur over the next 30-50 years. However, the triggers for reactivation of VZV are poorly understood, and protection may involve external boosting, internal boosting, or other mechanisms.
In response to these concerns, VASP is collecting thorough information on herpes zoster cases. Cases of shingles have been reported to VASP since 1999 among individuals <20 years and since 2006 among individuals ≥50 years. Surveillance for shingles will also help monitor impact of the licensed shingles vaccine "
It seems to now make sense why the NYT down-played the "big CDC" instead to the little "disease control center." There's nothing being done except more "reporting" and we in the autism world know what that means - years and years of ignoring, minimizing and denying.
So it seems that I am in a pocket - the late 40 to 60 crowd - who is outside the parameters for the Shingles vaccine, Zostavax, (and since it is not on the Vaccine Injury Table and does have 14x the potency of the Varivax vaccine, many in the pocket may be very ok with that) but vulnerable to the effects of the chicken pox vaccine. It's only a matter of time before Merck figures out what to do with us, as a potential market. But meanwhile, a very recent study has shown yet another continuing development: Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2011 Feb 21LABORATORY CHARACTERISTICS OF SUSPECTED HERPES ZOSTER IN VACCINATED CHILDREN
Varicella vaccination of children has decreased varicella disease incidence, but introduced the occurrence of herpes zoster (HZ) from vaccine-type virus. We identified 14 vaccinated children with suspected HZ and confirmed varicella virus by polymerase chain reaction in 6 cases. Two cases were due to vaccine-type virus. Serum varicella IgM and IgG were not useful for diagnosis of HZ among vaccinated children.
It appears that the immune system is giving Merck a ride for its money or is it the other way around?