The Full Story about Zostavax, the Shingles Vaccine

Humans are the only known host for the herpes varicella-zoster virus (VZV) that causes chickenpox. A very benign infection in the vast majority of children, chickenpox used to be called a “right of passage” disease, with most kids contracting the infection between the ages of 8 and 12. Recovery left behind lifetime immunity and in little girls, antibodies to be passed to their infants through breast milk later on life.

Vaccinated persons can still contract chickenpox. The so-called “breakthrough infection” occurs in approximately 2 percent of vaccinations per year. That may sound like a small number until you do the math. With nearly 4 million live births per year in the US, 2 percent equates to at least 80,000 cases of breakthrough chickenpox. And even though doctors say the infection will be “less serious” if the child has been vaccinated, severe cases have been reported.

A study released March 2017 examined the incidence of severe breakthrough chickenpox infection. They performed a systematic review of articles published between 1974 and 2016. The study’s abstract reports their disturbing findings:

“We found 52 to 60 unique cases of breakthrough varicella that involved organs other than the skin. We also found the following complications, with each disorder not unique or mutually exclusive: pneumonia (n = 8–9 cases), neurologic (n = 18–24 cases), hematologic (n = 10–11 cases), ocular (n = 5 cases), renal (n = 2 cases), hepatic (n = 3 cases), secondary infection with bacteremia or sepsis (n = 8 cases), and other complications (n = 4 cases). There were 6 cases of fatal breakthrough varicella.”

And it gets worse.

Without re-exposure, the dormant chickenpox virus can reactivate in adults, leading to the painful rash referred to as herpes zoster (HZ) or shingles. The zoster rash is typically unilateral, does not cross the midline and follows a distribution along a dermatome, an area of the skin supplied by nerves from a single spinal root. The painful rash usually lasts 7-10 days but can last 3 to 4 weeks, or more.

HZ causes acute and chronic complications, with complications occurring in 15%–40% of cases. The most common is post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), persistent, often permanent pain that remains long after the HZ rash has disappeared. Another severe complication HZ is herpes ophthalmicus (HO), when the virus inflames nerves near or in the eye. If not aggressively treated with antivirals and steroids, HO can result in loss of vision in the affected eye.

Historically, shingles was usually diagnosed in those who were elderly, immunocompromised, had insulin dependent diabetes or were taking drugs such as steroids, chemotherapy or biologics. After the widespread use of the chickenpox vaccine the last 12 years, very little wild varicella virus remains in circulation. Adults who had chickenpox as kids maintain their long-term immunity by being re-exposed children and grandchildren who have this 7-day itchy infection. Without the re-exposure, adult immunity wanes and the horrors of what Dr. Gary Goldman tried to expose in his book, The Chickenpox Vaccine: A New Epidemic of Disease and Corruption has become a reality. Goldman predicted that more than 50 million adults – in the U.S. alone – will experience shingles in their lifetime. But instead of stopping mass chickenpox vaccination program, the FDA approved a new vaccine for adults in 2006 called Zostavax, developed to prevent shingles. We are now creating vaccines to address a problem caused by a vaccine.

What is Zostavax?

Zostavax vaccine contains weakened chickenpox virus that can shed to others. Some patients inoculated with Zostavax were found to shed the vaccine-strain virus through their saliva for one month after vaccination. There are documented cases of chickenpox-like infection after being in contact with a person recently vaccinated with Zostavax. A person who has received a shingles vaccine should avoid contact with newborns, pregnant women and those who are immunosuppressed for up to a month.

Does Zostavax prevent shingles?

In fact, the truth about the shingles shot may be even worse than its lack of protection. More than 31,000 adverse effects from Zostavax have been reported to VAERS – take some time to read a few of these horrific reactions.

Seniors are the target for the shingles vaccine. Those on Medicare expect that Medicare Part D will pay for the cost of the vaccine but that may not be the case. If the deductible has not been met, the full cost of the vaccine itself plus the fee for giving the shot can range from $190 to over $350 – and may need to be paid by the patient.

A review article on herpes zoster, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) generated a comment by Roy Fried, MD. MHS regarding the number of serious adverse events (AE) after the shingles vaccine:

  • For persons over 60, there is a 36% increase incidence of serious AEs within the first 42 days when data from FDA safety study was combined data from the Shingles Prevention Study.
  • For persons over 80, the ability of the vaccine to prevent shingles or PHN was no better than placebo AND these seniors had nearly double the rate of serious AEs in the first 42 days after the vaccination.

Will Zostavax decrease pain?

The vaccine industry frequently touts that even if a vaccine doesn’t keep you from getting sick, you will have a “less severe case” of the infection. Not true with Zostavax. The FDA reported those who were vaccinated and still developed shingles, the severity of the pain was at the same level as the pain experienced in those who contracted shingles but had not been vaccinated. And the vaccinated group reported they only experienced the pay for two days less than the pain reported by those who had not been vaccinated (20 days vs. 22 days).

There has been a recent trend to give the shingles vaccine to adults who have already had shingles to prevent a reoccurrence. One study of more than 6,000 people 60 years or older were followed for an average of 2 years.  After recovering from shingles, about 20% were given the shingles vaccine. Researchers concluded that getting shingles a second time was uncommon, whether or not a vaccine was given.

 So why bother getting a second, expensive shot, and risk the long list of potential side effects. 

Does Zostavax save the healthcare system money?

The zoster shot has not lessened the incidence of disease; in fact, by eliminating the circulating chickenpox virus, we have significantly added to the overall cost of healthcare.  Prior to 1993, and during the first 5 years of using the chickenpox vaccine, the rate of hospitalizations due to shingles did not change. Beginning in 2001, hospitalizations began to increase, and by 2004 the overall rate of hospitalization was 2.5 cases of shingles per 10,000 U.S. population, significantly higher than any year prior to 2002. Hospital fees increased by more than $700 million annually by 2004; in particular, persons aged 60 years or older accounted for 74% of the total annual hospital charges in 2004.

Can Zostavax Be Given Simultaneously Other Vaccines?

The package insert warns that the vaccine should not be given at the same time as the adult pneumonia shot BUT it is “safe” to be given at the same time as a flu shot.

Seniors beware!

If you are given both injections at the same time at your doctor’s appointment, this is what will be injected into your body.

Shingles shot contains:

  • Viral Particles: At least 19,400 PFU (plaque forming units) – 14 times more viral particles than in the chickenpox vaccine
  • Animal cells:
    • Pig: porcine gelatin – 15.58mg – known to cause anaphylaxis and food allergies
    • Cow: bovine serum – known to cause anaphylaxis and food allergies
    • Aborted Human cells: MRC-5 cells
    • Antibiotic: Neomycin
    • Chemical: sodium chloride (table salt) – 4.0 mg
    • Chemical: MSG, 0.62mg
    • Chemical: sodium phosphate dibasic, 0.57mg
    • Chemical: potassium phosphate monobasic, 0.10mg
    • Chemical: potassium chloride, 0.10 mg
    • Chemical: sucrose, 31.16 mg
  • Flu shot – ex: Regular Fluzone  (Fluzone HighDose is given to some seniors; it does not have mercury)
    • Viral particles: 45 mcg
    • Animal cells:
    • Residual egg protein
    • Pig: porcine gelatin 5 mg
    • Chemical: sodium phosphate
    • Chemical: Formaldehyde, 75 mcg
    • Chemical: Octylphenol ethooxylate, (Triton X-100), 75 mcg
    • Chemical: Thimerosal – mercury – 12.5mcg to 25 mcg per dose

Are you willing to put this into your system for less than a 50:50 chance of avoiding the shingles?

What To Do Instead

Vitamin C is a first-line antioxidant to protect against viral illnesses. The higher the blood levels of vitamin C, the more shingles can be avoided. It is well known that when a person is ill, much higher doses of vitamin C can be administered. By taking oral vitamin C ascorbates daily – as much as can be tolerated – is one of the best ways to keep the herpes zoster virus in check. This is the brand I recommend and we sell in our office in Cleveland, Ohio. Since the product is a powder, it can be dosed easily for all persons in the family.

An oral protocol recommended by The Vitamin C Foundation suggests starting with 3,000 mg powdered vitamin C ascorbates. Repeat the dose every 30 to 60 minutes until you experience a single episode of loose stool (not quite diarrhea). At that point, reduce the dosage to 2,000 mg and take a dose every hour until the illness or symptoms have been relieved. If you have access to an IV program, the pain of shingles and PHN can definitely be modulated and perhaps quickly eliminated with intravenous vitamin C.

A case report of two patients (females aged 67 and 53 years) who were diagnosed with shingles and PHN received 15 gm of vitamin C intravenously every second day over a period of two weeks. Sudden and total remission of the neuropathic pain was observed and the skin lesions were completely resolved within 10 days.

The shingles vaccine is one of many the mainstream establishment will be pushing on seniors over the next few years to reach the vaccination goals set by HealthyPeople 2020. Knowing the risks of side effects and the lack of benefit from Zostavax should help you to stand firm on your decision to Just. Say. NO.

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3 Comments on "The Full Story about Zostavax, the Shingles Vaccine"

  1. Sherri Lynn | 08/28/2018 at 1:27 pm | Reply

    As I sit and write this note, I have Shingles. It has been 2 months since it first started. I find that in this area not many doctors are up to date on treatment. My case if unusual in that it doesn’t not have the normal outbreak. So because of the pain, the doctors here put me through a gambit of tests from gall bladder to kidney and on and on. From my first doctor visit I told the doctor that it was shingle pain because I had had shingles about 10 years ago on my face and head. Though not returning in the same location but the more normal location I recognized the burning, electrical pain and numbness of my skin. Okay enough background. My wonderful Primary care doctor prescribed Lyrica by Pfizer. It has taken a great deal of the pain away and I was actually able to VOTE today. I will begin adding more Vit.C to my diate. I thank you for your advice and direction.

  2. For what it’s worth here:
    I am 66 yrs old and have lived with Herpes Zoster 1 (oral) for the past 40+ years.
    Backstory: I have had childhood vaccinations and boosters in the early 50s – adult boosters for international traveling. In my early 20s I contracted what was back then called Impetigo from my back then husband. My first outbreak was terrifying and excruciatingly painful. I went to a dermatologist who began a series of injections of what he said was a “type” of chickenpox vaccine. After repeated injections, the virus seemed to grow stronger while my immune system grew weaker. Every outbreak was larger, more painful, more frequent, and lasted longer than the previous one. Eventually, I realized this doctor was clueless and stopped seeing him. I began studying anything about the virus but not much was available. I contracted adult chickenpox easily after that. Children who had been inoculated were carriers and their parents clueless as to their contagion.

    I have been able to control my outbreaks with 1500 mg L-Lysine a day and 3,000 mg Liposomal Vit C. I have to watch my stress levels and avoid sick people by all means. What I have learned is that Chickenpox, Herpes, and Shingles are all related. They are in the same Zoster family of viruses and that this virus can lay dormant for years and years before it presents.

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