My mom is a bit of a skeptic about the medical establishment. Not that there aren't reasons to be skeptical, but I don't think Mercola is the ultimate source of information. Recently she sent me an email complaining about the chicken pox vaccine and that its main purpose is for parents who don't want to have to stay home with their kids. My response to her is below, but the gist is that the main purpose is to reduce societal costs due to lost productivity due to parents staying home with their kids. Rather than looking at the problem as a selfish act by parents, we should be looking at the economic impact on society. I apologize in advance for the links to web articles, but I shy away from sending my mom links to the scientific literature. Here is what I sent:
With regard to the chicken pox vaccine, I understand what you are saying in terms of chicken pox generally being a mild disease. But it still causes ~150 deaths per year in the US and costs $1B to US society due to hospitalization and lost productivity (see links below). These deaths are of previously healthy individuals unlike deaths from influenza which kills immuno-compromised individuals. From briefly searching, it appears that the cost of the vaccination program is on par with the hospitalization cost of the disease. This means that the benefit of the vaccine is due to decreased societal costs due to lost productivity, i.e. parents staying home with sick kids. From a societal point of view, this is a very reasonable reason to create a vaccine. The question about shingles after vaccination is interesting. Pre-vaccine, the vast majority of individuals contracted chicken pox, so I'm guessing the incidence rate for shingles will be equivalent before and after the vaccine was introduced. It will be interesting to see how the severity of shingles for vaccinated individuals compares to that for unvaccinated individuals. I have seen quotes saying that it is less severe for those who had the vaccine. I think this is disingenuous since the vaccine has only been around for 15 years and we already know that shingles is less severe in younger individuals. It will take another 30-40 years to determine what happens with the severity of shingles. With regard to many vaccines at the same time, it is my belief (based only on the data of my two children) that for healthy children this is not a problem at all, but for immuno-compromised individuals it could be an issue.

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03 November 2010