Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Advertisement in My Local Weekly Newspaper

Today I noticed this ad in our local weekly advertising paper which everyone in the area gets free in the mail.
I am certain it will entice lots of old people into getting The Shingles Vaccine!!!!.
And all you have to do is go to the pharmacy.
The shingles vaccine is called Zostavax and it is made by Merck, which also sells the controversial Gardasil vaccine. Merck is the second biggest pharmaceutical corporation in the world. Merck is the very incarnation of Big Pharma. Notice how the ad just says "shingles vaccine" and does not use the scary word "Zostavax".

First, shouldn't a physician be involved in giving vaccines?
This ad just encourages the elderly to walk into the pharmacy and get it.
"Speak to your doctor or pharmacist to see if this is right for you!"

I'm not worried about getting shingles and who the hell is recommending that I get this?
Well, it's the CDC.

The CDC recommends that "everyone over the age of 60"  get this vaccine.
The CDC says that Zostavax, the shingles vaccine, cuts the risk of shingles 51%.
Merck claims 70% success.

What is the chance of getting shingles? 
22% of men and 32% of women over 45 will have at least one outbreak of shingles in their life.
So, for me, as a man, this vaccine has about an 11% chance (the vaccine supposedly cuts the rate in half) of helping me to avoid a shingles attack. 
Of course, I have already made it to age 61 without shingles (Or chicken pox, which supposedly is what  develops into shingles when you get old. But I never had Chicken Pox.)
I suspect the chance this vaccine will help me is much less than 11%.
I also supplement with lots  of vitamin B complex including vitamin B12 which is said to protect against shingles. 

What are the dangers?
This is a relatively new vaccine (2006) so who knows what the long term effects are.
And we can guess that it contains many of the usual suspect nasties that vaccines contain. 
Looking up Zostavax I found a page on which listed its side effects. 
(Here is Merck's circular on it.)

Official common side effects were diarrhea, rash, headache, flu like symptoms, pruritis, pain, swelling.
Buried in the side effects at the bottom of the page under the rubric "For health professionals" I found this:

"Fifty-one individuals (1.5%) receiving Zostavax were reported to have congestive heart failure (CHF) or pulmonary edema compared to 39 individuals (1.2%) receiving placebo in the AE Monitoring Substudy; 58 individuals (0.3%) receiving Zostavax were reported to have congestive heart failure (CHF) or pulmonary edema compared to 45 (0.2%) individuals receiving placebo in the overall study."

This same verbiage is buried in the Merck circular linked above.

So I would have a .1% to .3% more (depending on how one reads the study) chance of hastening death due to congestive heart failure after taking Zostavax. So for every 1000 people who take this 1 to 3 more persons will die who wouldn't otherwise die so soon. I assume a serious pulmonary event like congestive heart failure in a person over 60 has a pretty good chance of meaning an early visit from the Grim Reaper. I could be wrong. Let's call it "Death" just for fun

I don't want to make this bet.
Shingles is very painful but it is not lethal unless you have a very compromised immune system.
And if you have a compromised immune system Merck doesn't recommend you take Zostavax.
And, anecdotally, a friend of my wife had to go to the hospital with severe chest pains after taking the Zostavax. Fortunately, she was OK. 

The CDC makes the reassuring point on their website that this vaccine does not contain mercury (thimerosol). We have been assured by the Medical Industry and the CDC that thimerosol is perfectly safe. So why do they feel the need to say Zostavax does not contain it? They, the CDC, do not mention in their list of side effects that studies have shown  there is a slight increased chance of congestive heart failure with this vaccine. 

Let's look again at the numbers from the Merck study/substudy for congestive heart failure related to this vaccine.
It looks like there's anywhere from a .1% to .3%  (their study so the numbers may have been sandpapered around the edges a bit, it has happened before) increased chance of CHF (congestive heart failure) or pulmonary edema with Zostavax.
Again, that means anywhere from one to three people per thousand who take Zostavax will greet an early death (or suffer "serious cardiovascular events" says Merck) who would not have died had they not taken Zostavax.
Considering that about 50 million people over 60 live in the United States that means if they all did what the CDC wanted them to do, 50,000 to 150,000 thousand Americans would be expected to perhaps die (or at least experience "serious cardiovascular events") soon after taking Zostavax who wouldn't have died had they taken nothing.

That would be a lot of social security and medicare checks that wouldn't have to be cut anymore.
It's brilliant (if you are an evil genius).
You kill a lot of useless feeders yet not so many as to raise a lot of uncomfortable questions.
You don't want to make the plan obvious.
But wait, here is the insurance policy.
The Supreme Court recently protected Big Pharma from vaccine liability.

Let's cull the herd, boys.
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