October 2003 STUDY REVEALS IMPORTANT SIDE EFFECT OF MASS VARICELLA VACCINATION OF HEALTHY CHILDREN: Reduction in chickenpox may increase incidence of shingles.
The results of a new study published in the October 1, 2003 issue of the
European journal Vaccine indicate that a higher than expected number of
shingles cases was reported among children with a previous history of
chickenpox-approaching the incidence rate normally seen only in older
adults. Results of the study suggest mass vaccination with varicella
(chickenpox) vaccine may be responsible for this adverse effect.
PEARBLOSSOM, Calif. (PRWEB)October 8, 2003--- The results of a new study
published in the October 1, 2003, issue of the European journal Vaccine
indicate that a higher than expected number of shingles cases was reported
among children with a previous history of chickenpox. The rates observed
approach those normally seen only in older adults. Results of the study
suggest mass vaccination with varicella (chickenpox) vaccine may be
responsible for this adverse effect. Complications from shingles, which is
caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus that lies dormant in the
body, result in about three times the number of hospitalizations and five
times the number of deaths as those from chickenpox disease itself.
Shingles, usually mild in children, can be severe in adults.
On March 17, 1995, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the
live varicella vaccine, and shortly thereafter 38 states mandated that
every infant be inoculated at twelve months of age. The CDC-funded
Varicella Active Surveillance Project (VASP) of the Los Angeles County
Department of Health Services was established to study trends in varicella
disease among the 300,000 residents in the Antelope Valley health district.
Because this high desert community, including the primary cities of
Lancaster and Palmdale, is geographically distinct with few individuals
seeking healthcare outside the region, it is nearly ideal for scientists to
detect preliminary disease trends.
"Because the vaccine is eliminating chickenpox disease, children and adults
no longer receive the natural boost to their immune systems that they
received from periodic exposures to the disease," says Gary S. Goldman,
Ph.D., author of the study and former research analyst with VASP. "Due to
the dramatic decline in chickenpox, children are now experiencing a higher
incidence of shingles."
To compensate for this, vaccine manufacturers plan to license a booster
"shingles" vaccine to substitute for the natural boost in immunity that
occurred when chickenpox disease was previously circulating in the
population. Goldman expresses doubts about the effectiveness of this
approach to the impending problem.
"This will likely lead to endless disease-and-cure cycles," says Goldman.
"Varicella vaccination would have been less problematic if all children had
the opportunity to gain natural immunity and only those still susceptible
at twelve years-of-age were vaccinated."
Previous research shows that Japanese pediatricians who were exposed to
patients with chickenpox demonstrated shingles incidence rates one-half to
one-eighth that of the general population. In 2002, researchers in England
and Wales also found a lower incidence of shingles among adults living with
children compared to those living without children.
According to a spokesperson from the FDA, "There is no legal precedent
requiring a vaccine manufacturer to perform studies on individuals who have
not received their product."
However, Goldman insists that, "To assess the safety of chickenpox vaccine,
continued study of the effect of widespread vaccination on increasing
shingles incidence is critical." Goldman hopes this study encourages other
investigators to examine shingles rates not only among vaccine recipients,
but also among those who have not received vaccine.
Dr. Goldman concludes, "If a clear vaccine-associated increase in shingles
is confirmed in further studies in broader populations, this should be
considered by public health authorities in evaluating vaccine use strategies."
For more information on the current study, see the three reports published
on 18 consecutive pages in Vaccine (Volume 21, Issue 27/28) or contact Gary
S. Goldman, Ph.D., at (661) 944-5661 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Gary S. Goldman, Ph.D.:
From 1995 to 2000, shingles was not studied, and positive aspects of
vaccination contributed by Dr. Goldman were published in the Journal of the
American Medical Association (JAMA) and other medical journals. In 2000,
after hearing reports of school nurses observing cases of shingles in
children for the first time, Goldman suggested shingles be added to the
active surveillance project. After two years of shingles data collection,
Goldman documented the adverse effects that might well be associated with
the universal varicella vaccination program.