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Dangers of the Shingles Vaccine PDF Print E-mail
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New Vaccine - Vaccines
Friday, 02 January 2009 23:15
August 07, 2008  
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Dear Reader,

"Can anyone recommend a good internet article on the dangers of theshingles vaccine? My aunt in Colorado is leaning toward getting this vaccine, but I'd like to point out the dangers to her before she decides."

An HSI member named JanH posted that question in the HSI Healthier Talk community forums. And it might be hard to persuade her aunt to lean away from getting the vaccine if she's ever watched helplessly as a friend or relative suffered the debilitating pain caused by shingles.

Add to that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would strongly encourage her to get the vaccine. In fact, in 2006 the vaccine advisory panel for the CDC voted to make the shingles vaccine routine for everyone over the age of 60.

But before JanH's aunt rolls up her sleeve and braces for the vaccination needle, we'll check in with HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., to get his take on this ounce of prevention.

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Not for a king's ransom
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If you had chicken pox as a child, then you're at risk of developing a case of shingles. Long after the chicken pox is gone, the virus that caused it (varicella zoster virus, VZV) lies dormant in nerve roots. VZV may rest quietly there for all your days. But for certain people whose immune systems are compromised by immunity-suppressing drugs or stressful events, VZV may suddenly come roaring back as a case of shingles.

Obviously, no one wants that. So: To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? When I put this question to HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., he said that although he doesn't know exactly what the vaccine contains, he wouldn't take it for a king's ransom. Why? Dr. Spreen: "Because ALL vaccinations are suspect until they've been monitored for decades (for long-term dangers), and this vaccine obviously could not fall in that category.

"BESIDES, why not just prevent shingles with B-12 (which also is an excellent treatment for them once you get them) and lysine (which also can be used to treat them).

"I had shingles once...and badly: Zoster ophthalmicus affects the eyes and can even cost you your vision. I was working on a ship (enclosed, recirculated air environment), and had had some poor dental work in port. From that I got the flu, had to stay up late treating patients, and that led to shingles. I was one miserable guy, but I had the nurse give me B- 12 shots everyday for 3 days and that was the end of it (though my vision was foggy for a week before clearing)."

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Bumping the ratio
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When I asked Dr. Spreen about preventing shingles with vitamin B-12, he suggested that 500 mcg per day would probably be a good insurance policy because B-12 protects the nerves. Supplementing with lysine (anessential amino acid) is a little more complicated.

Dr. Spreen: "With lysine you have to be more careful, as you're playing with something called the lysine/arginine ratio. Lysine competes with arginine in the body, and arginine is a stimulant of growth hormone, so you don't want to drive that down unless you have a real reason. And an arginine supplement isn't a solution because you're trying to alter the ratio to make it less favorable to the virus.

"That said, if you GET shingles, then 3 grams (3,000 mg) of lysine daily can do a lot (a LOT) to shorten the duration and lessen the pain/itch right off). Given that a person has developed shingles (or, rather, gets them fairly often), at that point I'd go on 500 mg of lysine daily (between meals) as insurance after kicking the previous outbreak. But I wouldn't take lysine just because I had chicken pox as a kid."

In supplement form, high doses of lysine may raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of gallstones, so lysine supplementation should be monitored by a nutritionally oriented physician. Dietary sources of lysine include meat, fish, dairy products, legumes and brewer's yeast.

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Manfull Market Editor's note:

The main reason I would not get the shingles vaccine is that it is manufactured by Merck. I do not trust most pharmaceutical companies, anyway, but Merck tops the list, especially after they got in trouble for making up research studies and articles and then paying respected scientists to put their names on them.

Here are the ingredients of the shingles vaccine (as put forth by Merck):

ZOSTAVAX is a lyophilized preparation of the Oka/Merck strain of live, attenuated varicella-zoster virus (VZV). ZOSTAVAX, when reconstituted as directed, is a suspension for subcutaneous administration. Each 0.65-mL dose contains a minimum of 19,400 PFU (plaque-forming units) of Oka/Merck strain of VZV when reconstituted and stored at room temperature for up to 30 minutes.

Each dose contains 31.16 mg of sucrose, 15.58 mg of hydrolyzed porcine gelatin, 3.99 mg of sodium chloride, 0.62 mg of monosodium L-glutamate, 0.57 mg of sodium phosphate dibasic, 0.10 mg of potassium phosphate monobasic, 0.10 mg of potassium chloride; residual components of MRC-5 cells including DNA and protein; and trace quantities of neomycin and bovine calf serum. The product contains no preservatives. (Source)

 
Just out of curiosity, is there a reason why this vaccine contains a flavor enhancer (monosodium glutamate, MSG)? Is it so the sucrose tastes better to the live herpes zoster virus?

Zostavax was licensed in 2006 by Merck, the same year Gardasil (Merck's HPV vaccine) was also licensed. Zostavax is recommended for people 60 and older, and it only protects half of those vaccinated. The attenuated virus (which means it's still alive, just "weakened") is 14 times as potent as the chickenpox vaccine. (Source)

Basically, if you have any health problems and your immune system is weak, this vaccine could cause a whole lot of harm.