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When is an oops not really an oops? by Sandy Gottstein

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When is an oops not really an oops?  When you get to solve the problems you cause, and make money doing both!

With great fanfare, but amid considerable debate and hesitation,  the chicken pox vaccine emerged on the scene in 1995.  Never mind that prior to introduction of the vaccine, chicken pox among children was considered a benign disease, with relatively few serious, long-term complications and rarely a death.  Never mind that getting chickenpox in childhood generally confers lifelong immunity, thereby preventing its occurrence during adulthood, when it can be severe.  Never mind that getting the vaccine during childhood may increase the likelihood of getting the disease as an adult.  (Although it's too soon to tell if chickenpox vaccine received during childhood can be counted on to work throughout adulthood, we now know that measles and other vaccine immunity does appear to wane over time.)  Never mind that the strongest argument proffered in favor of the vaccine was eliminating "work days lost".   (And what about those parents who are willing and able to stay home and care for their children?  Make it difficult!  Get states to mandate the vaccine for school entry!) 

When opportunity knocks, the vaccine manufacturers answer.

Now we learn that among the ramifications of chickenpox vaccination is increased risk of shingles as adults.  Why would that be?  It turns out that in order to prevent shingles among those naturally immune to chickenpox, adults appear to need repeated exposure to the virus.  The chickenpox vaccine, to whatever extent it is successful in preventing circulation of the virus, is now thought to result in significantly increased risk of shingles, an extremely painful, often difficult to treat, sometimes fatal condition among adults.

Voilá, a shingles vaccine!

Apparently when vaccine opportunity knocks, it may knock twice.  First get people to pay for something they don't really need; then get them to pay to prevent the now otherwise unavoidable consequences.

What will then be the consequences of the shingles vaccine?  Will the consequences be recognized as vaccine-associated?

When are we going to put our collective feet down and stop this madness?

Sandy Gottstein

Date: 5-10-2002