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Is the Chickenpox Vaccine Creating a Shingles Epidemic?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Story at-a-glance -

  • Shingles rates are increasing in the U.S., possibly due to the increased use of the chickenpox vaccine
  • Exposure to chickenpox is protective against shingles, which has serious implications for mass vaccination against chickenpox
  • Being exposed to chicken pox in the community (or in your household, via your children) may have the protective effect of boosting your immunity against the virus, thereby lowering your risk of shingles as an adult
  • Research suggests chickenpox vaccine could cause a shingles epidemic by limiting wild-type chickenpox virus
  • Chickenpox is typically a mild illness in most children, with infection leading to lifelong immunity; the chickenpox vaccine offers only temporary immunity, which could leave a person vulnerable to more severe infection later in life

Many of you reading this probably remember having chickenpox as a child. You were likely tired, feverish and had an itchy rash, which subsequently cleared up, leaving you with lifelong natural immunity. Getting chickenpox was so common it was a rite of passage of sorts, which virtually all school-age children experienced.

Today chickenpox has become much less common due to the routine administration of the chickenpox (varicella) vaccination. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two doses of chickenpox vaccine — the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age and a second dose at age 4 to 6 years.

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