The Shingles Vaccine: Help or Hype?

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

Pharmacies are pushing very hard to promote the shingles vaccine in my local community at the moment.  Signs are everywhere for adults 60 and older to get the “recommended” shingles vaccine and that they are available every single day!

At $219 plus tax per jab, the shingles vaccine is certainly not cheap – that much is certain.

There’s no doubt that shingles represents a clear threat to the health of seniors.  My Mother had a terrible time with shingles a few years ago and my Great Grandmother apparently died from the postherpetic neuralgia which is the most concerning aftermath of shingles.

Then again, she was over 100 at that time and anything at that age, even the common cold, would represent a serious health threat.

Shingles vaccine effectiveness only about 50%

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) has this to say about the shingles vaccine on its FAQ page:

  • There is one live virus shingles vaccine, licensed in 2006, for use in the U.S. by adults over 50 years: Zostavax, manufactured by Merck;
  • The CDC now recommends adults 60 years and older receive one dose of shingles vaccine;
  • Reported complications from shingles vaccine include local swelling, pain and redness at injection site; zoster-like skin rash, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, fever, abnormally swollen glands and hypersensitivity reactions including anaphylaxis (shock);
  • Shingles vaccine effectiveness is reported to be about 51 percent;
  • The shingles vaccine contains live attenuated varicella zoster virus and vaccine strain virus transmission from the vaccinated to susceptible individuals has been reported;
  • Mass use of chickenpox vaccine by children in the U.S. since 1995 has limited natural boosting of Varicella Zoster immunity in the adult population and there has been a significant increase in cases of Herpes zoster among adults.

Very interesting!   Mass vaccination of children for chicken pox has apparently triggered a large increase in shingles in the adult population.  So what has Merck done?  It simply repackaged the chicken pox vaccine as Zostovax and made it approximately 14 times stronger.

In essence then, the shingles vaccine is just the chicken pox vaccine 14X stronger and yet it still only boasts an effectiveness rate of 51 percent.   That piece of data alone should give most people considering this shot some serious pause.

Contraindications for the shingles vaccine

The CDC recommends that the shingles vaccine not be received by the following individuals:

  • Women who are pregnant or who might become pregnant within 3 months.
  • Persons who are immunosuppressed or immune deficient, such as those with a history of leukemia, lymphoma or other disorders affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, AIDS or those on immunosuppressive therapy.
  • Those individuals who are experiencing an acute illness or fever.

In addition, people who have experienced a previous severe allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin should not get the shingles vaccine.

Reported side effects of the shingles vaccine include:

  • Local swelling, pain and redness at injection site
  • Shingles like rash
  • Headache, joint pain, muscle pain, fever
  • Abnormally swollen glands
  • Anaphylaxis (shock)

Shingles vaccine contains consensually aborted fetal cell tissue

Let’s dig a little further.  The ingredients of the shingles vaccine according to the product information insert consist the following:

“ZOSTAVAX is a lyophilized preparation of the Oka/Merck strain of live, attenuated varicella-zoster virus (VZV). ZOSTAVAX, when reconstituted as directed, is a sterile 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 (MSG), 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.”

The good news is that there isn’t any thimerosal or aluminum in the shingles vaccine.  The bad news is that there is MSG in there along with aborted fetal cell tissue.   MRC-5 cells are actually the following:

“The MRC-5 cell line was developed in September 1966 from lung tissue taken from a 14 week fetus aborted for psychiatric reason from a 27 year old physically healthy woman.”

If one is philosophically opposed to abortion then, the shingles vaccine would represent a blood money exchange for a supposed increase in immunity from the Herpes zoster virus (shingles).

Does the shingles vaccine really help at all?

No doubt the worst part of a shingles infection is the risk for postherpetic neuralgia which can be so debilitating for seniors who experience it.   This neuralgia which can persist for months is apparently what sucked the life right out of my Great Grandmother eventually killing her.

Even if the shingles vaccine didn’t help reduce infections at all but significantly reduced postherpetic neuralgia, that would be very promising.

Once again however, the marketing versus the actual reality are quite different.

According to David Brownstein MD who has examined the effectiveness of the shingles vaccine, the reduction in postherpetic neuralgia from the shingles vaccine is so small it is nearly insignificant.  He states:

“Merck, touts a 39% decline with the use of the vaccine. Further analysis of the data might lead you to a different conclusion. Approximately 0.4% of unvaccinated persons versus 0.14% of vaccinated people developed postherpetic neuralgia. The 39% decline is the less-than-accurate ‘relative risk’ (0.14/ 0.4). If we looked at the more accurate absolute risk, we come up with a decline of 0.26% of postherpetic neuralgia in those that were vaccinated.”

What?  A measly .26% decline in the risk of postherpetic neuralgia by getting the shingles vaccine?

It would seem that the $220 for the shingles vaccine would be much better spent on an investment in fermented cod liver oil and butter oil, used in healthy, disease free Traditional Cultures and proven by the research of Dr. Weston A. Price to significantly improve immunity and overall immune function which is what truly prevents the shingles in the first place.


Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist


Comments (138)

  1. I had chicken pox as a child and twice with my children when I was 30. When I hit my late thirties I would get some blisters. In 2012 I had a week of severe chest pain doctors said Gord. Jan 2014 I had my immunizations checked as I was starting a job in aged care. It said I had no immunization against chicken pox. So I had a pox vaccine. Since then I have been the sickest and had the worst pain in my life it’s now August 15 and I have had shingles averaging every 3 mths and PHN 3 times. I have been seeing an Osteopath and taking natural immune supplements such as msm, vitamin c, olive leaf etc. My last rash I almost missed only 4 blisters and one was a little painful when I knocked it. I had planned a day during the worst episode to end it, but my son stayed home from school and that didn’t happen. Doctors don’t know s…t I had one tell me it’s all in my head and that I’m anorexic because he couldn’t diagnose the problem (which was shingles). In the end I researched my symptoms and said to my latest doctor I have shingles he looked at my rashes blisters and said yes you do. In the past I was told that their hives, prickly heat etc. My doctor now says have a shingles vaccine but I have noticed the last episode was so light which would mean my immune system is getting better. I think I will tell him and the $240 to stick it some place else.

  2. so if a vaccine is the introduction of an attenuated virus to cause the production of antibodies, how can it be effective if the virus is already present in our bodies. It would seem to me that our bodIes have already produced the antIbodIes to thIs partIcular vIrus.

    • I had Chicken Pox as a kid. I saw my mother go through the pain and missed days of work with Shingles. My insurance covered the vaccine so at age 54 I decided to have it. Shortly after I had the vaccine a pain in my upper stomach started. It is located under my breast bones and an area bout as big as my fist. A pain that is like glass churning. It is constant and rates between a 6-8 on the pain scale every day. Some days are worse. I have ruled out any and everything that could be causing it…including having my gallbladder removed. The tests and surgery have cost substantial amount of money and still no answers. Today a new physician I saw suggested it could be nerve damage from the vaccination. She said another patient of hers had nerve pain after the vaccine and when prescribed Lyrica it went away. Has anyone else had symptoms like this after the vaccine and what did you do for it?
      I have had this blister like pain for 6 months and hopeful that something or someone can help me.

  3. As a child, back in the 1930’s, I had chickenpox. In 2011, when I was 77, I paid our local Health Dept. $200.00 for a shingles vaccination. About 2 years later I came down with a terribly painful case of shingles. Besides the blisters around my left side, my back felt as though someone had stuck a knife in it and was constantly turning that knife. This lasted for 6 awful weeks. I was not left with any residual damage, thankfully. However, I know people that have had shingles more than once. I think that vaccination, particularly in older people is ineffective.

  4. Thank you for writing such an interesting (and informative) article about the Shingles Vaccine. Although I had the Chicken Pox when I was a child, I had a severe case of Shingles when I was in Junior High (I was about 11 years old) and was in terrible pain for a long time…. in fact, it was one of the most painful experiences of my life! I have been so afraid of catching it again, and have been considering getting the Shingles Vaccine over the past few years. I was horrified to read (in your article) that this vaccine is made with aborted fetuses. Just the thought of that makes me sick. Whether or not the vaccine is effective (and you have stated that it has not proven to be highly so) I can not, in good conscience, even try to benefit from something that comes from the death of a human being. Thank you for opening my eyes up to this disturbing, but necessary knowledge. You have made my decision easy.
    I want to thank the other people who have commented… knowing that stress can trigger Shingles can help me be more aware of trying to reduce my risk factors and increase my immunity (in general).
    Thank you.

  5. So I am wondering if I should even try to expose my kids to the chickenpox? They are very young (5 and under). It sounds like we’d almost be better off to avoid it, and avoid the vaccine, and hope they are never exposed to the virus.

  6. My family got it after seeing 3 friends ages 43,55,59 suffer for years and be completely debilitated for months I knew I couldn’t do that .i wanted to get it in my 50s and pay whatever but they wouldn’t allow it so Inwas there on my 60 birthday

  7. Lori Burner Rogers via Facebook December 18, 2013 at 1:50 am

    B12 shots….or even sublingual B12, just takes longer. That’s all you need if you get shingles. Doctor’s know this too…but they ain’t talkin. No money in vitamin cures!!!

  8. MaryRuth Asano Wolfe-Moore via Facebook December 17, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    All immunizations are lies. My Dad has had shingles after the shot (didn’t work). Plus, with all the “other ingredients” in them, do you really want to put your trust in a shot??? Side affects are life threatening.

    • I also had a horrible case of shingles two years after being vaccinated……now six months later, I still suffer from PHN. False advertising and not enough research from the drug company…..

  9. I’ve had them since I was 12… 1979. Im the only person in a family of 7 that never had the chicken pox either! I got them during my competitive gymnastics seasons… on my eye lid, cheeks, and nose. Now that I am older they have morphed to my neck, scalp, sometimes on my side, but mostly around my nose! I used to take Valtrex for them.. but now that I am drug free and Paleo for the last three years I rarely get shingles.. though it does happen. I have been taking l-lysing for it.. and using Chiropractic – he uses the electronic acupuncture tool on it, and Tea tree oil on the sores.. They are resolved in two to three days.. and Im in much less pain. I wont do shots for ANYTHING. We have only been sick in this house two notable times in three years. So we firmly believe in the power of food and “getting a little dirty” to keep our immune systems in top notch order!

  10. When I was a kid I got the chicken pox vaccine, but I still got the chicken pox. I also got shingles at 59.
    When my children were young the chicken pox was going around and I expose them to it . My daughter got it , but not her brother. I exposed him to it three times and he didn’t get it until his senior year in high school, so he had a very bad case. He got over it just before prom so he had the spots on his face.

    • I had the chicken pox when I was little, but then, I’m 80 years old now, so that was long before they even had a prevention shot for chicken pox! Probably a good thing, though I remember I was pretty sick with chicken pox. Whatever. But I got shingles when I was about 22, the first year of married life. Extremely painful, but didn’t last too long, maybe two weeks. But some say that now, since I HAD shingles, I’ll have antibodies & couldn’t get it again? What say you all?

  11. My son developed shingles at age 12 in the early 90s (he’d had chicken pox 4 years earlier). Our family doctor told us 2 things I will never forget. 1. That shingles used to be SO rare in children that doctors would automatically look for cancer, but that it was becoming more common in kids, so they didn’t bother looking any longer. 2. That ‘they’ were working on a chicken pox vaccine but it was causing more shingles. So 5 years later Merck put the chicken pox vaccine on the market KNOWING it would cause more shingles. They then could profit from a shingles vaccine. And we also need to ask why immune impairment was becoming so common in kids that they were developing something that used to only be seen in the weak elderly population. But of course, doctors and Big pHARMa don’t want us thinking about these things.

  12. Joyce Herron via Facebook December 16, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Hype!! I had a royal case of chicken pox as a child……if that virus is still living in my body somewhere……..and I have not developed antibodies to it…….how can some shingles vaccine keep me from getting shingles? What makes the virus in the vaccine capable of me producing antibodies? Makes no sense to me!!

  13. Heather McClain via Facebook December 16, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    shingles is rising b/c of the lack of chicken pox and naturally boosting the already immunity to pox most people have. We are having very few cases of chicken pox anymore so those that have had it, are developing shingles.

  14. Alana Lessly via Facebook December 16, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    I just had what may be considered a mild case of shingles. It’s more painful than I ever imagined. But still… I’m not a big vaccine person so in hind sight I’d still probably skip the vaccine.

  15. Clarissa Mc Kenzie via Facebook December 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    My hubby got shingles at 29 and thank god he could not get the vaccine as I did not know then , what I do now! Crazy all this shot pushing everywhere.

    • Yes, I had it twice. The pain is horrible, but one acupuncture treatment stops it immediately. After that, it just felt like having a cold and being tired for a week. As long as you have an acupuncturist around, I see no reason to be scared of it.

      • Yep, I had the shingles in July 2014. My doctor suggested 2 years earlier to get the vaccination. I didn’t and I got shingles. The outbreak left scars it left on my left torso. It is now March 2015. The pain has subsided to an itch in two places, but it took 8 months to get thru it and I had to take gabapentin to reduce the pain!! If I had a do over I would get the shot. I don’t want to go through it again. Since nobody outside of medical research knows for sure, I will stick to tradition.

        • I know first hand how excruciating the pain is…….but I DID get the injection…..and I would definitely not get it in hindsight! I got shingles two years after the injection!

  16. I had shingles a couple years ago when I was 62. My Nurse Practitioner convinced me to get the shot saying it could prevent a repeat outbreak. The day after the shot I did have a repeat out break and am still in considerable pain centered in my left shoulder. No surface out break this time but there is strange tingling on the surface. At times the pain moves up and down my left side and down my left arm. There is weakness with the pain.

    My mother had a shingles shot and still had a bad outbreak years later during a stressful period.

    My conclusion is that it is a failed shot that is worse than useless. And expensive. $$$$$$$ !!!!!!!!!!!

  17. has anyone tried colloidal silver?I have a friend that was desperate after 2 weeks of not being able to sleep much because of the pain from the shingles came to me and ask me for some colloidal silver.He was desperate . He rubbed some on and also drank a couple ounces within 15 minutes he had total relief an said this was the first full nights sleep in 2 weeks trust me it works.

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  19. Margaret- As I said in my post, acupuncture completely eliminated the pain I experienced from shingles. I would recommend talking to an acupuncturist. Acupuncturists that I know say that this kind of pain has a specific treatment that works wonders for it.

  20. Sarah, my husband had shingles last year – at 52 – and is suffering with postherpetic neuralgia, which is simply awful. I’m looking for natural treatments or remedies for him – is there anything I can do now? I cook out of Sally’s book, and am working on boosting his immunity in general.

  21. My doctor recommended strongly that I get the vaccine because I am above 50 so I gave in. I was one of those who experienced quite some side effects. Most notably a full blown rash in the sacrum area which stayed for almost 10 days (totally looks like shingles, not as painful but every bit as itchy). Since I never get really sick or get virus infections easily that was a surprising reaction (I had chickenpox as a child). So most likely I would have not really gotten shingles ever, nobody in my family ever did.

    Now – even 2 months after the vaccine there are still phenomena in my body which are new and I am tempted to point to the vaccine as a potential cause (a joint pain I did not have ever before).

    Today I really think that nobody really understands viruses that well yet, what their genetic material really does inside our complex cellular systems, how this interacts with each one’s DNA, RNA, already existing (settled in) virus material in our cells (such as nerves), interactions, feedback cycles all that stuff.

    I should have done more research before getting the vaccine, it was dumb not to do so. So that one is on me, I don’t blame my doc, I actually have the ability to research it all myself and did not. Would I do it again with what I know today? No probably not, would I have been informed about the side effects, the percentile (1-3% get this) and the success rate – no, I would def not get the vaccine.

    Still for people where Shingles runs in the family it might make sense despite the potential side effects though. I am not be the right person to judge or recommend what others should do, each one of us is different and how we react to vaccines (and medication etc).

  22. I had my first shingles outbreak at 33 on my lower back. I went to my doctor (my ex-doctor) while it was in the itching stage and he identified it as shingles and gave me whatever prescription it is that mainstream doctors give. Then the pain came. It shot down my leg and was horrific, unbelievable pain. I needed relief and called my acupuncturist. She saw me immediately and after one treatment the pain was completely gone. I felt better so quickly that I went right back to work. Unfortunately I assumed because the pain was gone, so was the virus, so after a couple of days at work, I felt very run down and had to get back in bed a rest more, but there was no pain remaining. I was under severe emotional stress when I got the shingles. 2 years later while again under severe emotional stress, I started feeling the familiar shingles itch. I immediately went to the acupuncturist, and I never experienced the pain, I just had to stay in bed and rest for a few days because I felt wiped out as if I had a cold. I had a great new doctor this time around. I told him what was going on and he was supportive of the acupuncture. I am no longer scared of shingles. If I have another outbreak, I know my body is telling me to rest and recover and I know that the pain can be alleviated by a session with my acupuncturist. When I got the second outbreak, I felt very empowered that I knew exactly what my body needed to heal. As strange as it sounds, it felt more like a gift. Ultimately, the second time around it was no worse than having a common cold.

  23. “Traditional disease free cultures”? This idea is the stuff of pure fantasy. Show me even a fragment of scientific evidence that supports the idea that traditional societies are/were immune to disease.

  24. How about more information on why cod liver oil and butter oil would benefit in this case rather than all this focus on what’s wrong with vaccines. With a quick glance at the comments it’s clear that for the most part you’re preaching to the converted anyway. I do not use vaccines but do use cod liver oil and butter oil. However, I would be interested in learning why they are beneficial in this case, apart from generally supporting health and the immune system.

  25. When they introduced a booster shot for 7th graders, the doctors said it was because they found that the original toddler vaccination for CP wasn’t strong enough to provide immunity through adulthood and they were finding more cases of shingles in older adults. Did you happen to follow that only several years ago? It makes what Leslie wrote seem like the real truth– if there are no real outbreaks, only a small dose given via vaccine, then the body does not respond the same way as full blown CP and therefore doesn’t develop a strong immunity. My mother used to say that in the 70’s– that it was good to have CP like we all did, with lots of pocks and a week off school, than only to get a mild version because then you could get them again. Now tell me why science didn’t recognize what our mothers knew all along!

  26. I have a good friend who is an infectious disease doctor. She says that it is because of the chicken pox vaccine that shingles are epidemic. When there is a chicken pox outbreak in a community, everyone who is exposed get reimmunized naturally. Now, there are no real outbreaks and we have a shingles problem.

  27. Ok, couple of things…my daughter had shingles at 6! She had a severe case of chicken pox when she was 3. I was floored..anyway, we did what the doc said and then when they popped up again during the teen years, I didn’t freak out, just went to my herbal website and started researching…tea tree oil clears it up quickly if it is a small outbreak and we also take Oregon Grape. She is 17 now and if she gets run down, they begin to show up and we make the necessary adjustments…no big deal. Just in case anyone thinks that this is a new phenomenon..remember back when the U.S. military gave blankets to the Native Americans that were infected with smallpox. (I didn’t know about this until I was GROWN! My father in law, a dentist and history buff, told me!) I guess there really is “Nothing new under the sun” as it says in the Bible! Lastly, I am against abortion, so I would NEVER knowingly take anything that had fetal cells, etc. Go rent “October Baby.” It is beautiful and moving. Thanks to the folks commenting that aren’t afraid to speak the truth about this issue. God bless.

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  29. My son had them at 17, he is now 28 and had another outbreak a few years back that was mild.
    I got shingles at 49 yrs old after a tick bite but that was misdiagnosed leaving my system very weakened. I was hospitalized for them, they were on my face, neck, around the eye, up the head on the skull and down the back of the head. I have had numerous outbreaks since that were extremely mild that first year and half afterward. I was rx’d Valtrex to take daily indefinitely and after about 5 months I got a bit nervous on the fact that what if I became resistant to the meds and not only that they made me very nauseated. The only reason I was open to using it daily was the eye was affected from the first go round but did not lose my eyesight but it was very close.
    I am on my second severe attack of them and have been for almost 3 weeks. I don’t know if it was taking the Valtrex that caused this second serious outbreak or not, but I highly suspect it to be true. After all it does suppress it so if it was brewing all this time in the nerves and when it got a chance after the meds were removed…wham! Don’t do it, don’t take valtrex or any of those anti virals indefinitely, NOT WORTH it.
    To the poster using the ACV, i wish I could say the same. I drink ACV daily and a whole lot of other healthy things, olive leaf extract, coconut oil etc. not helpful in the least for me. :( But I do think it is worth a try, yup.

  30. Not sure what my story has to do with anything, but I’ll just share. When I was 16 I got shingles. Doctor told my Mom I couldnt possible have it I was too young (she was a nurse who told him that’s what she thought I had), by the second appointment he agreed that’s what I had. My brother 4 years later (when he was about that age) also got shingles. My daughter (eight years old), my mother-in-law, and an uncle all got shingles at the same time. None of us had either vaccine and we all had the chicken pox. My daughter just a mild case. I dont want the vaccine, but the illness is still very puzzling. None of us had any lingering effects.

  31. Someone told me the other day that their doctor said he “deserved” the vaccine shot for shingles-strange- anyway my doctor says lets she if you have the virus that causes it and get rid of it….my preferred method for sure

    • David Zelman, PharmD September 25, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      I assume your doctor uses the same strategy for their HIV patients. I wholly support the idea. Just cure the disease by eliminating the pathogen. Please let us know how this is accomplished.

      • David, yes by looking at blood test, which of course can be challenging with the various labs that provide various quality of work (per my doc not me) he is testing for bacteria and viruses that if left alone will eventially develope into some sort of disease if not all the way to cancer. Left alone they weaken immune system developing into full auto immune disease and further health issues.

  32. Jo Anne Mathis Roberts via Facebook September 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    I have had Shingles 3 times. It is very, very painful, and affects the skin, the nerves, and even the muscles under the affected skin. So you feel like your skin is on fire for a week or so. And, you can be left with scarred skin. One of the times it was on my face, and near my eye. You can lose your vision if it affects your eye. It is very serious business. Do not take it lightly at all. Eliminate stress, and maintain your overall resistance so you have some strength to fight the effects.

    • David Zelman, PharmD September 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      I know, right? Just like how it’s so interesting that US Army new recruits aren’t briefed by an Al Qaeda member about the truth about America.

      EVERYONE who gets a vaccine MUST be given a vaccine information sheet produced by the CDC. They contain warnings. People neither read them nor care. Don’t blame the provider. Blame the patient.

      • Great reply David Zelman, seems like you really have your priorities straight. “Don’t blame the provider. Blame the patient.” If the provider wasn’t PUSHING for something that has no evidence behind it that it actually helps, then the provider is the one at fault. Not the patient. I would hate to be under your care.

  33. James Charter via Facebook September 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Chicken pox and shingles vaccine are cultered on cells from aborted fetal tissue. I was telling a lady about that recently. Her reply was: “oh, I don’t care about that.” ~N

  34. My son had a mild case of chickenpox at 3 years of age . He was never vaccinated for it . When he was 12 he had a bad case of shingles all over the left side of his face including his mouth, nose and all through his eye . It was horrible. When we were at the eye and ear hospital the nurse who also worked at the Children’s hospital ( we live in Australia ) told us that the cases of young children with shingles has increased dramatically. I think about it often and wonder why .

  35. Boy do I have one for you; my husband’s Granddaughter had shingles at 9 years old! Then, a month or so later his daughter (a very strong, healthy outdoorswoman) was diagnosed with GB (Guillain Barre) and the only exposure to any of the usual suspects was her daughter’s shingles. She is still recovering from GB 9 months later.

  36. Back when my kids were offered chicken pox vaccine, I told the doctor I was leery of it. (This was when I was just waking up to vaccine dangers.) I mentioned a few qualms about vaccines in general and about it being so new and then I asked her if there was any info out of other places where it was used about if it would prevent or cause shingles.

    She was absolutely floored. She had no answer for me and thought it was a good question. But it was the look on her face when I first asked it that made me realize how few parents were really questioning this stuff the medical “experts” were offering or pushing. :(

  37. Ingrid Mane via Facebook September 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    My online friends came in handy with this. When one kid got the kitchen pox, the mother mailed shirts the kid wore to parents who wanted it. That’s how my 3 got it. My oldest got vaccinated for it at age 1 and still caught it when my other (unvaxed) kids did. He was 6.

    • Terri,
      You can only get shingles if you have had chicken pox . The disease lies dormant in your nervous system and for some unknown reason something triggers it ! Interestingly you can apparently catch chicken pox from someone with shingles if you haven’t had Cp before !

  38. No. I had chicken pox several times. One horrible case that lasted 2 full weeks as a kid. And the rest were minor cases that I caught from kids I was babysitting and teaching. I think the chicken pox vaccine is silly but I caved into doctor because (at the time it sounded logical) she said my kids could be susceptible to getting it just as bad. However I now believe that they probably have better immunity to it than I did because of my repeated exposure. One of my kids even had a mild case following the vaccine even though the doc denied it! Hopefully that helped me replenish my immunity! If there’s a pox party anywhere near me any time soon I’ll probably go!

  39. Cara Sullivan Heppler via Facebook September 21, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I was 22 when I got shingles, it’s not just an old persons thing. Yes, I was young and able to recover, but I also do not feel it is at all necessary to get this vaccine. It’s all hype!

  40. Morgaine Donohue via Facebook September 21, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Also, if you dont plan on getting the vaccination…why would you send your kid over to get the pox? Why not just let them live their life with the high likelihood that they wont get it, and never have to worry about shingles?

    Pox parties made sense back when everybody got CP. Your kids were going to get it anyway, the risk of cp related pneumonia, encephalitis, and death were going to pop up anyway, so why not do it on your schedule? But now its a foolish thought process that doesnt confer any more immunity than the shot does, and puts your child in harms way.

    • This makes no sense. Where is your evidence that a natural case does not confer more immunity? Why on earth would anyone choose to receive a lifetime course of a vaccine created from human cells when there are studies that show these types of vaccines interfere with gene expression epigenetically? Go ahead and be a guinea pig. I bet if you combine adverse reations to the vaccine with complications in cases of vaccinated children, the percentage would be MORE than 5%.

      • Where did you get the 5% number?

        Here is a quote from a University of Michigan study that shows a whopping .76% decrease in hospitalizations after the vaccine was introduced:

        “The study shows that the national rate of hospital discharges for chicken pox and related complications dropped 74 percent in the first six years after the vaccine first went on the market. Before the vaccine, there was one chicken pox-related hospitalization each year for every 20,000 Americans. By 2001, when 76 percent of toddlers had been vaccinated, the rate was 0.26 hospitalizations per 20,000 people.”

        Yes, getting actual CP is so very much more risky than getting shots all your life.

  41. Morgaine Donohue via Facebook September 21, 2012 at 11:23 am

    About 5% of chicken pox cases lead to complications like encephalitis and worse, so it can be a very big deal. That seems like a small number until your child is in the 5%.

    The problem with shingles these days is specifically that chicken pox isnt common anymore. It used to be around everywhere, so every time you were exposed to it, your immune system was kicked on and reminded that the nasty little bugger was still chilling in your spine.

    Now, however, most people are only introduced to the virus once or twice, be it by vaccine or wild strain, so the virus has all the time in the world to mutate into herpes zoster and lead to an outbreak. This can happen as early as your twenties these days.

    Thing is, you arent supposed to stop vaccinating as a kid. Early trials on the vaccine supposed that the immunity would last 13 years, so Im gonna put my bet on more like 9 or 10 years. Theoretically, if you stay caught up on your vaccinations even through adulthood, your immune system should be activated enough that shingles shouldnt be a problem unless you become immunocompromised.

  42. Stephanie Renee Peña via Facebook September 21, 2012 at 11:02 am

    My dad got shingles last year and gave all the grandkids chicken pox, lol! My sister and I were happy our kids got it while they were so young. My youngest son was vaccinated for the ckn pox a week before all the kids got the chicken pox and believe it or not he didn’t get the chicken pox and he was exposed daily…I was forced to vax him due to the fact he needed a liver transplant and I didn’t think the vax would work, but I’m glad it did and he’s immune to it. But I still think the pox is just a silly vaccine I would never give my kids.

    • Sarah – Can you confirm the comment, above? That would be SO good to know for us parents who want our kids to have the chicken pox rather than the vaccine.

  43. Elizabeth Bivens via Facebook September 21, 2012 at 10:44 am

    My oldest got the chicken pox vaccine, got the chicken pox, mildly. I thought they were bug bites at first and he infected the rest of his class that hadn’t gotten the shot. I just sent my girls down the street to get them from a neighbor that had them. I had chicken pox 3 times, bad each time, as a child. And as an adult I had my first shingles outbreak at 19. Just let it run its course, I’ve had reoccurance about 6 times over the past 15 years. Each time I just let it run its course. My MIL got shingles and the dr she had diagnosed wrong and therefore treated them wrong. She now lives with the constant concern about setting a flare of the pain. Its REALLY bad to live with nerve pain. I think that one has to weigh the risk/benefit witht his as with ANY medication we put in our bodies. I think my MIL would have taken the shot had it been an option before her first outbreak knowing what she lives with now.

  44. Sherri Coenen Cripe via Facebook September 21, 2012 at 10:35 am

    It also seems like shingles is no longer an old person’s disease. I know someone who is 28 and had shingles this summer.

    • I will be 58 next week. I had chicken pox at age 7 I believe. I had shingles at the age of 27 during an extremely stressful time in my life. The worst of it was before I even knew what it was, prior to the rash. I felt like I had broken ribs. Several days later I broke out with the rash on my ribcage below my breast. I believe it went through the same course as chicken pox and was cleared up within about 2 weeks. These commercials they have on TV for the vaccine are terribly misleading. Yes it was uncomfortable but they make it sound horriffic. I had a case of bronchitis that was many times worse. I am strongly Pro-Life. I heard a comment about 6 months ago about them putting tissue from aborted babies in our food and I thought it was a joke. Now I know otherwise. We live in a very sick society and it gets worse by the day. Very sad!

  45. Lori 'Martin' Langone via Facebook September 21, 2012 at 10:32 am

    No, to the shingles vaccine. Efficacy rate is low. Dangerous side effects are high. Read the package insert.

  46. Lisa Wallen Logsdon September 21, 2012 at 10:31 am

    My 65 year old husband, due to a period of business related stress, came down with a nasty case of shingles. We treated him with vitamin C and B-12 and he was completely over it in two weeks (most cases last much longer) and he has had NO residual effects, and he’s a construction worker and never lost a single hour of work. Our Pastor’s wife, during a get together, urged him to get the vaccine and we both turned to her and in unison said: “We don’t DO vaccines!” and I think everyone in the room looked surprised, if not at our unified statement, at least at the fact that we dared to defy the Pastor’s wife, LOL!

  47. Nancy Brooke via Facebook September 21, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I’m wondering how this all will affect two of my children who have neither had the chicken pox or the vaccine…… There chances of catching the chicken pox seem very low.. My 18yr old had it when he was 5. But not my younger 2…

  48. I have often thought about issues with the chickenpox and shingles vax – as a Registered Nurse, I’m supposed to offer my patients vaccines when they are in the hospital. Here’s the thing with these vaccines – shingles occurs in a person who has had chickenpox. My first question with the chickenpox vax was, “isn’t this tricking the body into thinking it has had chickenpox, so aren’t they more likely to have shingles?” Apparently now this is proving to be the case. Lovely. It all comes down to the $$.

  49. not saying I don’t agree with most of this……. however….
    but the the blood money comment – absurd. A lot if this is reaching.
    and please get some vaccine info from somewhere else beside NVIC once in a while bc it’s always going to say what you want to hear and never expand your mind at all.

    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist September 21, 2012 at 8:05 am

      I live in the Southern US where the majority of people would consider voluntary abortion to be nothing short of murder. If Merck developed and is making money off a vaccine based on the cells of an aborted human being, then paying money for that vaccine would indeed be a blood money exchange. Not so absurd at all.

      2 of the other links in this article are not from the NVIC although I do find the NVIC to a very comprehensive source of vaccine information.

  50. Thanks for the info, Mrs. Pope. Actually, I have a (sort of) related question.

    Against my better judgment, my mother is requiring that I am inoculated against the flu ( I am fifteen; we get the vaccine every fall).
    I’ve tried to reason with her, pointing out concerns over the safety of the shot, but she is very set in her opinion (concerned about me missing school, or getting my grandmother sick over Christmas).
    I can get either the vaccine or the FluMist nasal spray. Since there are problems with each, my question is, which would be the “lesser evil”?

    Hopefully someone can help. Thanks!

    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist September 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Antonia, your question breaks my heart. Can you get some support from some other relatives in the family who can help you pressure your mother to not force you to get the shot? How about your father or grandparents?

      Does she know the flu vaccine has thimerosal in it? Have you shown her some of the research that shows that those who get the flu shot are actually more likely to get the flu? Check out

      If there is nothing you can do (use your creative teenager brain!!) probably FluMist is the lesser of the two evils. At least with that, you don’t have chemicals injected directly into your bloodstream.

      • The Flumist insert originally cautioned against coming in contact with “immunocompromised” individuals for 21 days, which has somehow magically been shortened to 7 days of caution over the years. Who is immunocompromised? Anyone with a weak or weakened immune system, which the CDC seems to define as the elderly, the sick, the very young, etc. Or way over half the American population…

      • David Zelman, PharmD September 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm

        Not every flu vaccine has thimerosal in it. The Sanofi-Pasteur pre-filled syringes do not. Request those. (FYI: Neither does their intradermal product, but the poster is too young to receive it.) Flumist should only be used by those unreasonably afraid of needles. It is a weakened live virus. It works by reproducing in your upper airways. You are essentially giving yourself a very weak viral infection when you use it. Other flu vaccines are just viral proteins to help your immune system recognize the real thing when you encounter it.

          • David Zelman, PharmD October 6, 2012 at 3:36 pm

            I support medicine, not just pharmacologics. I recommend tea tree oil, goldenseal, and plenty of holistic therapies. I’ve also stopped recommending against homeopathic remedies in a effort to be open to all options out there. I hope you consider doing the same. I’m just trying to help this poster avoid thimerosal in their unfortunate situation.

      • A flu shot goes IM (intramuscular) not as reported by “Sarah” who states “directly into the blood stream. The flu shot only last about 6 months and is a dead virus. The flu mist is a live virus and will last about a year. Take your pick…they both work! As a nurse, I definitely see the positive sides of the vaccines even though some have some side effects that are not fun. When you are an adult…you can make your own decisions about your health.

    • There is a study to prove that vitamin d is more effective than the flu shot. Maybe try to find it and say you will promise to take vitamin d every day :-)

  51. Thanks Sarah. You can add “people who have had Guillian-Barre Syndrome,” to your list of those who probably should not have it. I had that over 23 years ago and do not take any vaccines, flu, tetnus, shingles, etc. I’d rather risk GBS reoccurring due to a bout of the flu, which I’ve only had once since 1988 when I came down with GBS after having influenza, than to risk getting it from a shot. For those of you who are not familiar with GBS and would like to know more about what this autoimmune disease it, Google it. It’s rare, it is life threatening and no fun. I’d asked to be shot if I got it again! 😉

  52. I don’t think there’s ever a good reason to vaccinate. Homeopathy can see children through chicken pox (see Joette Calabrese’s website for more info). Medicine of commerce always has profit as a first priority and your health second. Anything that causes side effects is not something that doctors should be prescribing (refer to the Hippocratic oath: “First do no harm”!

  53. At 40 years old I developed shingles along the tragiminous nerve on my scalp and face shortly after spending a week at a hospital with my dad who was being treated for mesothelioma. Undoubtedly the outbreak was brought on by stress and spending that much time in a hospital.

    My doctor, a completely mainstream D.O., told me the shingles vaccine is utterly worthless.

  54. this time of year? I think the flu shot sign is at Walgreens all year long! Now, they just posted the FREE flu shot notice to our corporate office…but, don’t wait long, it is first come; first serve…oh, the marketing of it all!!

    My kids and I laugh and joke when we drive by walgreens and talk about family outings to get the immunization du’ jour being listed on their shiny electronic sign…”family day at walgreens, let’s all get out HepB vaccine! It might even be free!! Oooo what fun”

    I also remind my children that if we do go into walgreens for a last minute item, NOT TO TOUCH ANYTHING! it has to be one of the dirtiest places on earth!

  55. Just the other day I was told that I’m at risk for shingles because I never got the chickenpox vaccine. It made me wonder about the supposed necessity behind either vaccine if it only came out in the late 90s. I read a while ago that the chickenpox vaccine was only a matter of connivence as parents no longer had to take time off work for sick kids rather than a dire epidemic of infectious disease.

  56. This time of the year, every drug store, supermarket, and big box store puts out signs for flu shots. It has blanketed our community: one cannot drive around without being visually accosted by several of those signs. Could you please have a section on your site where all your articles on vaccines are located or linked, to educate people about the deleterious effects of vaccines?

  57. When I had a shingles outbreak a year and a half ago, I took 1 clove of crushed minced garlic 2x per day and it cleared up within 2 weeks. The allicin in crushed garlic is a potent antiviral (also antibacterial & antifungal). My normal routine now includes 1 clove of crushed minced garlic in half a shot glass of coconut oil before bed. I haven’t had a recurrence of shingles. Also if I start to get a cold or flu I double down on the garlic and it goes away.

  58. Thanks so much for sharing the information about the shingles vaccine and pointing out those tricky manipulations of statistics that can turn a 0.26% into a 39%.
    And hurray for spreading the word about natural health builders like cod liver oil!


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