By Kim Rossi
Many years ago, I worked for a wonderful woman who became a mentor and second mother to me. She had a saying, "Don't punish progress." I think of her wise words every day. When one of my girls attempts to put a dish in the dishwasher - I praise her and show her how to rinse off the globs of food rather than saying, "That was good BUT...." Buts are rotten. They negate praise.
I often think we're missing this point in the vaccine injury community. We've sides and factions and I've seen some pretty cruel shaming and blaming over the years for being too anti-vax or not not anti-vax enough. Many of us have kids with autism - young and adult. We're just trying to get through the day unscathed or not too scathed, and the jabs and slings and arrows really hurt. You do your thing and let me do mine. Below is a question from a medical advice column that ran in The Detroit News. Dr. Roach answers honestly about Shingrix (shingles vax) side effects. Shingles are terribly painful and disruptive and people are getting shingles younger and younger - even as children no longer get chicken pox in the same numbers. (Mother Nature exacts her pound of flesh, doesn't she?) Dr. Roach says up to 10% of recipients may experience severe side effects. That's progress. He doesn't say NEVER EVER GET THIS VACCINE! (I'm over 50 and I ain't nevah evah getting this vaccine, FYI.) I can understand someone outside our community wanting Shingrix to prevent shingles. Dr. Roach also suggested Tylenol. Ugh. Still, he acknowledges side effects in a major US newspaper. That's progress.
Dear Dr. Roach: I received the first dose of Shingrix (which help prevent getting shingles) this week and had pretty severe side effects, though in the range of what can be expected: high fever (101.5), intense shivering, a severe headache and 12 hours of extreme fatigue. The entire reaction began 11 hours after the shot and ended 18 hours after that. I am 61 and in excellent health, taking only 25 mcg of levothyroxine daily.
I have a few questions that I hope you can answer. I’ve tried looking at the clinical trial results for Shingrix, but I am not qualified to understand the information as presented.
1. Is it likely that I’ll have a similar (or worse?) reaction to the second shot? The package insert says one can react to the first, second, neither or both.
2. Are both injections identical?
3. When I had chickenpox as a child, I was way sicker than the average kid. Related?
4. If I get shingles, do I have a higher risk for a severe case?
Dear J.G.: Compared with the previous one-time vaccine Zostavax, the new two-dose Shingrix vaccine is much more effective. However, it does have a higher risk of side effects. You have had the most common side effect, though only 10 percent of people will have symptoms as bad as yours. These symptoms are caused by your body mounting an inflammatory response to the glycoprotein in the vaccine (the new vaccine does not contain a live virus). You clearly have a robust system to fight off infection.
To answer your questions in order: You are at higher risk for a similar reaction for the second shot. I would plan your day accordingly, and premedicate with Tylenol (even though it may make the vaccine slightly less effective). The second vaccine is identical to the first. I have read recent reports that there are widespread shortages of the vaccine.
Chickenpox and shingles can affect you both by the virus attacking you and by an exuberant inflammatory and immune reaction. I would guess that you are at lower risk for viral complications (such as infection of the eye, brain or lungs) but at higher risk for symptoms due to your own system, such as high fever. In many cases, the body’s response to infection can be as damaging as the infection itself.