Research published in the International Journal of Toxicology (IJT) by Gary S. Goldman, Ph.D., reveals high rates of shingles (herpes zoster) in Americans since the government’s 1995 recommendation that all children receive chicken pox vaccine.
Goldman’s research supports that shingles, which results in three times as many deaths and five times the number of hospitalizations as chicken pox, is suppressed naturally by occasional contact with chicken pox.
Dr. Goldman’s findings have corroborated other independent researchers findings that since death rates from chickenpox are already very low, any deaths prevented by vaccination will be offset by deaths from increasing shingles disease. Dr. Goldman was also published in the journal Vaccine showing a cost-benefit analysis of the universal chicken pox (varicella) vaccination program. Goldman points out that during a 50-year time span, there would be an estimated additional 14.6 million (42%) shingles cases among adults aged less than 50 years, presenting society with a substantial additional medical cost burden of $4.1 billion. This translates into $80 million annually, utilizing an estimated mean healthcare provider cost of $280 per shingles case.
Both chicken pox and shingles are caused by the same varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Adults receive natural boosting of thier defenses against shingles from contact with children infected with chicken pox.
Epidemiologists from the CDC are hoping “any possible shingles epidemic associated with the chickenpox vaccine can be offset by treating adults with a ‘shingles’ vaccine.” This intervention would substitute for the boosting adults previously received naturally, especially during seasonal outbreaks of the formerly common childhood disease.
“Using a shingles vaccine to control shingles epidemics in adults would likely fail because adult vaccination programs have rarely proved successful,” said Goldman. “There appears to be no way to avoid a mass epidemic of shingles lasting as long as several generations among adults.”
Goldman’s analysis in IJT indicates that effectiveness of the chickenpox vaccine itself is also dependent on natural boosting, so that as chickenpox declines, so does the effectiveness of the vaccine.
The common knowledge within the medical community has assumed the reason the frequency of shingles increased with age is due to the older individuals’ immune systems are declining. However, Goldman’s new research shows the real reason is due to the fact that older people received fewer natural boosts to immunity as their contacts with young children goes down.
Gary S. Goldman, Ph.D. served for eight years as a Research Analyst with the Varicella Active Surveillance Project conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (LACDHS). The project was funded by the CDC.