Saturday, March 17, 2007

Chickenpox Vaccine-- not as great as originally preached

It's kind of funny how one one hand, Big Pharma's all about Big Business--well, we HAVE to charge so much for our products (except, hm, in Canada where they refuse to pay overinflated prices) 'cause we have to put so much into R&D (and, of course, direct-to-consumer and direct-to-doc advertising)!

But then when their products don't work, the whole business model is conveniently forgotten. I mean, what car manufacturer would survive if you had to replace the steering wheel of its product every few years?

I got this from Medpundit about the not-so-great chickenpox vaccine (brought to us by Merck, the pusher of the the Gardasil--HPV--vaccine, read the old post here):

A Pox On Us: The chickenpox vaccine - not as great as originally preached:

Merck's chickenpox vaccine Varivax not only loses its effectiveness after a while, but it has also changed the profile of the disease in the population, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.

The study confirmed what doctors widely knew -- that the vaccine's protection does not last long.

And with fewer natural cases of the disease going around, unvaccinated children or children in whom the first dose of the vaccine fails to work have been catching the highly contagious disease later in life, when the risk of severe complications is greater, they said.

This is frustrating. When the chickenpox vaccine was originally introduced and recommended, there was tremendous resistance from pediatricians and family physicians in the trenches- for these very reasons. There was the fear that the immunity would not be as good as that aquired through natural disease and that when the vaccine did wear off it would leave young adults vunerable to infection. Chickenpox is a pain to have as a child, but it's potentially life threatening to have it as an adult. Especially a pregnant adult. The experts, however, assured everyone that this was not a worry. The Japanese had been using it for years and it was effective there. Never mind that we don't live in Japan. And most of us aren't Japanese. And so, it became the standard of care to vaccinate against a childhood disease that was largely benign so we could avoid the rare death (usually in an immunocompromised child, and at a rate of 100 per year in the entire United States).

What does this mean? It means we'll be giving boosters. Good for Merck. That doubles the demand for their vaccine. And if it turns out the booster's immunity fades with time, too, there will be another booster. It also means that we will probably see an increase in the incidence of chickenpox again after a steady decline over the past ten years. Which will be all the more reason to promote the booster.

Selling the vaccine to the infectious disease community was truly a golden goose for Merck. It remains to be seen whether it was such a good thing for the rest of us.

P.S. And don't you wonder how many of those infectious disease experts who preached the gospel of Varicella vaccination had financial ties of some sort to Merck? I do.

For the record, the FertilityBitch loves this blog.


Anonymous said...

I'm so not shocked by this. I refused the shot for me and my son years ago when it first came out. Nurses looked at me like I was crazy. Sure enough, I did get chicken pox finally just a bit after that and a week later my son got chicken pox. My daugher will not get the vax either. Last thing I need is for her to get chicken pox late in life like I did. Soon I will try to expose her to chicken pox in hopes she'll get it done with.

- Lisa

Anonymous said...

NEW I agree also. My older children all came down with Chicken pox one right of the the other. We had a horrible 2 weeks but we survived. And we all got some special time together. Who would ever think of chicken pox as a bonding expierience. lol. But by the time my 10 yr old was born there was the vaccine. Which both he and my now six year old did recieve. However, Upon working as pediatric R.N. In an an office I have found a lot of kids do still tend to get the disease anyhow. Partly because as said above the immunity runs out. My six yr old last yr came down with Shingles. It was horrible for all of us. And I can't help but to wonder if that had anything to do with her getting the vaccine since Shingles is very rare in children and the same virus "Varicella" causes both. Basically with the vaccine you are putting the live varicella virus directly into your child. That's how it works. So I must wonder. Thanks Green for posting this.

Anonymous said...

Exposing your children to chickenpox may be a better than to let them experience it in their adult life, it's still best if we avoid it totally. With these untrustworthy vaccines for chickenpox, it is hard to prevent chickenpox. Proper precautions is probably the best way of protecting ourselves from chickenpox

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