By Christopher Wyatt | TLB staff writer/documentary producer
Chickenpox is one of several minor childhood illness nearly every child experiences in their early years, or at least they used to. Mild fever, a few days of itchy spots, and that was it. What remained was a strengthened immune system and possibly a few minor scars. Since the introduction of a vaccine, chickenpox has become a thing of the past…… or has it? What consequences are there for changing the natural course of a benign childhood disease?
The chickenpox vaccine was introduced in the United States in the mid 90’s, and was soon thereafter added to the CDC vaccine schedule. Initially, it was recommended anyone under age 13 receive one dose of the vaccine while anyone over 13 receive two doses, claiming two doses would incur lifetime immunity. Following its implementation, children under 13 continued to contract chicken pox, so in 2006 the CDC recommended that younger children also receive 2 doses of the vaccine. The CDC also claims the vaccine makes this mild disease somehow less dangerous, but this isn’t always the case. So, how safe is this vaccine really?
SOME FACTS ABOUT THE CHICKENPOX VACCINE
There are two live virus vaccines for chickenpox licensed in the U.S.: Varivax and ProQuad (MMRV), both manufactured by MERCK.
The CDC recommends children receive a chickenpox vaccination at 12 months and a booster dose between 4 and 6 years of age;
Reported complications from the chickenpox vaccine include: shock, seizures, brain inflammation (encephalitis), thrombocytopenia (blood disorder), Guillain-Barre Syndrome, death, and infection with vaccine-strain chickenpox including possible transmission of vaccine-strain chickenpox to others;
Chickenpox vaccine effectiveness is reported to be 44 percent for any form of the disease and 86 percent for moderate to severe disease;
Mass use of the chickenpox vaccine in the U.S. has removed the opportunity for the natural boosting of immunity in the population by re-exposure, which provides protection from shingles occurrences. Due to this, adults as well as vaccinated children are now experiencing shingles outbreaks;
In 2006, the CDC recommended an additional dose of the chickenpox vaccine for all children under age 13, and a shingles vaccine was licensed and recommended for all adults over age 60 in an attempt to combat the rising occurrence of shingles outbreaks.
As of September 1, 2015, there had been 122 claims filed in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) for injuries and deaths following chickenpox or varicella vaccination, including 8 deaths and 114 serious injuries.
Using the MedAlerts search engine, as of September 30, 2015 there have been 3,358 serious adverse reactions reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) in connection with chickenpox varicella-containing vaccines since 1990. Over half of all reported serious chickenpox vaccine-related adverse events occurred in children six years old and under. Of those, 161 were deaths, with over 60% of the deaths occurring in children under six years of age.
WHAT ABOUT SHINGLES?
Chickenpox cannot thoroughly be discussed without also mentioning shingles: the reactivation of the varicella virus due to stress or a compromised immune system. The chickenpox vaccine is not used in the UK and many other countries around the world because it is known that re-exposure to the chickenpox virus is required to prevent waning immunity in older individuals, i.e. shingles outbreaks. “If there is less chickenpox in children then there will be no boosting of immunity by exposure to chickenpox for middle and older aged people and thus there will be more shingles, at least until all the elderly have been vaccinated as children but this assumes that immunity conferred by vaccination is lifelong.”
Studies have shown that the chickenpox vaccine does increase the risk of shingles, but even that fact is being distorted: “Vaccinating one-year-olds against chickenpox could temporarily nearly double the incidence of shingles in the wider population, but in younger adults than previously thought.”
It should be mentioned that MERCK is maker of both the vaccine for shingles and chickenpox. Many parents still opt for natural infection. This is due to vaccine failure as well as the unknown duration of effectiveness this vaccine may offer. Recent studies have shown that having chickenpox significantly lowers the risk of brain cancer. I can’t think of a better reason to skip the chickenpox vaccine for your family and to actively seek out natural immunity. (CW)
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