Shingles Vaccine Scary Truth
Maybe it’s a slow news week. Maybe it’s just a new push for your dollars and Big Medicine needs to ramp up the fear factor so people will open their wallets. Whatever the reason, the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed a lot of ads and articles urging people to get the shingles vaccine. And that just makes me break out in an itchy rash of frustration.
Make no mistake, shingles is an extremely nasty disease to have. It’s painful. Although they’re rare it can have truly awful complications. It’s a virus, so there’s little that can be done to treat it. It would be wonderful if there really was something which could prevent it. But…the shingles vaccine probably isn’t the answer. Like the flu vaccine campaign, the shingles propaganda boils down to a whole lot of hype, doublespeak, and withheld information. Here’s what you really need to know about the shingles vaccine.
You’d have to vaccinate 1,000 people to help just 2
You might be shocked by the CDC’s admission that the vaccine is only 51% effective. You might think that’s a step toward more truth in advertising. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. Even that 51% figure, as underwhelming as it is, is a sneaky effort to make the actual numbers sound better than they really are. Here’s the truth:
Each year, only 4 people out of 1000 will have an outbreak of shingles, according to the CDC. If you’re one the unlucky 4 that sounds pretty terrible, but 4 out of 1000 isn’t a lot. Now. If you vaccinate an 1000 people, 2 will still come down with shingles. 2 people rather than 4—out of an entire thousand. All things considered, that’s not very impressive. Even less impressive than “50%.”
There can be serious side effects…including shingles
Although the CDC maintains that there have been no “documented” cases of people coming down with vaccine-strain shingles, the anecdotal evidence is out there. There are many, many incidences of people breaking out in shingles 1-2 weeks after a vaccination. And what CDC isn’t telling you is that most of these cases are never tested to see if it’s the same strain of virus as the vaccination. So we’ll never know whether people are getting it from the shot, or if they just happen to be unlucky—because no one is testing them.
There are, however, plenty of documented side effects. These can include:
- Pain and inflammation at the site of the shot
- “Shingles-like” rash, according to the CDC. Splitting hairs?
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Swollen glands
- “respiratory symptoms” (which are not defined)
- And anaphylactic shock
Let’s see…Pain and inflammation. Rash, joint and muscle pain, swollen glands, fever, and headache. This sounds a lot like the symptoms of shingles. And between 2006—when the vaccine was approved—and 2015, there were 1111 “serious adverse events” reported. The real number may be even higher since reporting is voluntary. 36 people also died due to the vaccine during that time.
This seems a high price to pay to “protect” two people out of a thousand.
You’re contagious after the vaccination
That’s right. While you can’t spread shingles itself, you can spread chickenpox. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, and the vaccine contains live virus. So after vaccination, anyone who isn’t already immune to chickenpox can catch it…from you.
While most adults 30 or older have had chickenpox and are naturally immune, the chickenpox vaccination campaign that started in the 90s has made sure that most kids have never experienced chickenpox. And the supposed immunity the shot is supposed to give seems to be wearing thin. In most recent chickenpox outbreaks, the majority of kids who get sick have already had the vaccine. So, don’t think your grandkids are safe just because they’ve had their shots.
On the other hand, natural chickenpox confers lifelong immunity, and being re-exposed to chickenpox periodically throughout your life—which used to happen as a matter of routine before the advent of the chickenpox vaccine—seems to build immunity to shingles.
You can only get shingles if you’ve had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine
This is important. Only people who have already had chickenpox, or the chickenpox vaccine, can get shingles. You can’t catch shingles from someone. Here’s what happens.
Once you recover from chickenpox—or after you have the vaccine—the virus lives in the roots of your spinal nerves. Like the virus that causes cold sores, it never goes away. Instead it just goes dormant. It can live there forever and not cause any problem. Like the cold sore virus, however, some circumstances can wake it up and make it become active again. When this happens, the virus manifests as shingles.
How can you protect yourself naturally?
Like cold sores, the shingles virus tends to strike when your immune system is weakened. The best way to protect yourself is, of course, to boost your immune system. What can you do?
- Reduce your stress – stress lowers your immunity.
- Get enough sleep – lack of sleep raises your levels of stress hormones and decreases your immune system’s effectiveness. Make sure you get not just enough hours of sleep, but good quality sleep.
- Eat well – focus on real food. Avoid processed junk, added sugar, and empty carbs. Eat organic if possible, and don’t cut out the healthy fats.
- Get some exercise, and get some sun – daily exercise strengthens your immune system, and getting enough sun ensures that you make enough vitamin D, which is essential to proper immune function.
Shingles is not something I’d wish on my worst enemy. But, it isn’t the bogeyman the CDC would have us believe. With a benefit to only two out of a thousand, and the risk of serious side effects, I think I’ll take my chances.
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