Amazing insights into the Chicken Pox vaccine and the unintended consequences of that decision on the health of US citizens in particular.
Tony Bark, M.D.: When I was a resident in pediatrics I was told, “we’ll never promote this vaccine, this vaccine will never be a recommended or mandated vaccine because all vaccines come with risks and Chickenpox is so risk-free.”
Of course if your children died from Chickenpox, well yes, on average in the United States there were a hundred deaths per year from Chickenpox.
That’s not considered a problem, I hate to say it. Of course if it’s your child or your spouse who dies, or you, it’s a problem.
But if you look at it statistically, 100 deaths out of how many 100 million people we’ve got in the country, it was a really low rate.
Suzanne Humphries, M.D.: Most people know Chickenpox is a pretty benign entity, now we’re vaccinated for Chickenpox and, “hey, the vaccines working, we’re not seeing as much Chickenpox” right, so that seems like a good thing.
However what we’re seeing more of now is Shingles because those us adults who need to be exposed to ongoing Chickenpox through children, aren’t. So we’re not getting those natural boosters and so what happens is our immunity level starts to drop. This is happening both in children and adults now.
I don’t think this is an overall benefit. The UK is not using that vaccine, they have looked into the danger of Chickenpox and the cost-effectiveness of vaccinating the entire population and they have decided not to implement that in their vaccine schedule.
There are other countries as well who have decided not to use the Chickenpox vaccine. United States is one of the most heavily vaccinated countries,
South Korea comes close and our childhood chronic disease rates are actually also among the highest.
Tony Bark, M.D.: The problem with that vaccine is there are many more deaths from the vaccine then we would have seen from Chickenpox because now what we’ve done is we’ve shifted the burden of disease from Chickenpox to shingles.
What a lot of doctors don’t even understand is that Chickenpox, like pertussis, needs to be in the environment so we can be constantly exposed and the constant exposure maintains our antibodies which keeps us from getting Shingles. Which is why when I was a young kid the only people that got Shingles we’re very old people because they weren’t exposed to young children anymore.
If you’re out in the environment and you’re exposed to the population at large and young people, you are exposed to Chickenpox, or you were exposed to Chickenpox and it kept your antibodies adequate to suppress Shingles from coming out.
Gary Goldman, PH.D.: As the vaccine became more widespread and by year 2000, 50% of children, age less than 10 years old had been vaccinated. The boosting from children in the community with natural Chickenpox severely decreased because so many children had been vaccinated. So the young children that had natural Chickenpox no longer were receiving those exogenous or outside exposures.
As Chickenpox exposures declined, Shingles increased.
Tony Bark, M.D.: Shingles has a much greater morbidity and mortality rate than Chickenpox.
Gary Goldman, PH.D.: Yes, that’s a good point because the cost to treat Chickenpox are at 25 percent and Shingles is 75 percent of the cost. So if you eliminate Chickenpox but Shingles increases then you’ve offset the benefit that you tried to achieve.