Is the Shingles Vaccine Okay?

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by MsE, Jul 1, 2008.

  1. MsE

    MsE New Member

    Recently one of our local stores, as well as doctors, has made the shingles vaccine available. Medicare covers it. One of my friends had a terrible seige of this illness and now, a year later, is still suffering from the accompanying nerve damage. She and another friend have highly recommended I get the vaccine.

    What about it? Have any of you had it? Is it one of those "Iffy" things for CFIDS patients? Tell me what you know about it, please. Thanks, MsE
  2. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    some posts that got lost in the shuffle today.

    Good luck getting info, MsE!
  3. MsE

    MsE New Member

    Pretty please respond to this note if you can. One person wrote something about messages having been bumped in the shuffle today. Maybe some answers came in and I didn't get them? Whatever. Please let me know what ou think about the shingles vaccine for those of us with these dd's. Thanks.
  4. phoenixrising2

    phoenixrising2 New Member

    I'm interested in this, also. I've had shingles twice and I'm wondering if you can take the vaccine after you've already had shingles to prevent (or lighten) another attack.

  5. MsE

    MsE New Member

    Good question. I haven't the slightest idea. I hope we get some answers on this subject. MsE
  6. victoria

    victoria New Member

    From US News & World Report:
    "I've already had shingles. Do I still need to be vaccinated?

    Yes, although recurrence is rare. But doctors usually advise waiting two years after you've had shingles before you get vaccinated, says Schaffner, who has received payments from Merck in the past for services not related to Zostavax."

    From WebMD:
    Up to one in ten older patients won't be candidates for the vaccine because of weakened immune systems due to cancer therapy, organ transplants, HIV/AIDS, or other causes. The vaccine contains live but weakened varicella virus that could overwhelm the immune systems of those patients.

    David Markovitz, MD, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan who reviewed Zostavax for the FDA, calls it a "highly useful" vaccine. "It's clear the vaccine markedly reduces the incidence" of shingles, he says.

    Markovitz says that doctors may be tempted to offer "off-label" vaccinations to adults age 50 to 59 in hopes of providing earlier protection against shingles. "Off-label" refers to drugs that are used in ways that have not been not approved by the FDA. But he stressed that the vaccine remains unstudied in such patients and that researchers still don't know how long immunity lasts after vaccination.

    "I don't think I would rush out and get it myself," Markovitz, who is 52, tells WebMD.

    I think those of us here have compromised immune systems... I personally don't plan on getting the shot, even tho it's been 2+ years since I did have shingles (well before 60, I'm not 60 yet right now).

    You might want to consider some alternatives if you feel you're about to get another case.......

    acupuncture is one I can vouch for as I used it very successfully;

    as well as using tagamet (yes really - google "tagamet life extension" , go to's site that pops up, and you'll see why)

    - a friend of ours at 52 had PHN for 6 months in the groin! and tagamet cleared it up in 2 weeks after the RXs hadn't done anything.

    Hope that helps, I KNOW first hand it's no fun...

    all the best,

  7. phoenixrising2

    phoenixrising2 New Member

    Thank you for the info. I don't believe I'll take the chance after reading about it. I had it in January for the 2nd time and am just now getting over it. My immune system is even more compromised since I'm just getting over a staph infection, too.

    Believe I'll just leave things as they are! Could be worse.

    Thanks again,
    [This Message was Edited on 07/02/2008]
  8. lurkernomore

    lurkernomore New Member

    I did not know that and after recurring bouts of shingles in the trigeminal nerve, my GP insisted I get the vaccine.

    The problem is that when you have an autoimmune disorder, you do NOT want to be vaccinated with a live virus! My arm turned red at the injection site and the redness went down all the way to my elbow. It was warm to the touch and it throbbed and swelled.

    I went back to show my doctor and he told me I must have picked up a bacterial infection. But I knew better because I had researched it and knew about the live virus the vaccine has. The good news is that I have not had a bout of shingles since the vaccination and before that, I'd had 25 documented cases on my face.

    So please, give it a lot of thought. This vaccine is nothing to take lightly if you have an autoimmune disorder and fibro is just that. I wish you well.
  9. MsE

    MsE New Member

    Thanks to all of you for the valuable information. I had no idea they used a live vaccine. One of you also mentioned Tagamet. Now how on earth would that work, I wonder? Interesting! I'll Gogle this as was suggested. Again, thanks for all the info. MsE
  10. greatgran

    greatgran Member

    I am so scared of vaccines as with most medicines.

    I declined my flu shot, pneumonia and shingles because it is a dose of the illness, so I have been told. With CFS I am afraid to take the chance.

    My GP disagrees thinks I need them since I do have CFS but he doesn't understand CFS. Even if I would be ok taking the vaccines, with my anxiety I am sure I would develope something.

    Have a good day my dear,
  11. MsE

    MsE New Member

    I'm with you, Greatgran. I've been saying "No" to the flu shot since the one time I got a heck of a reaction to it. The next time I considered it, I read all the fine print carefully, and thought "There has to be a catch with this stuff or they wouldn't insist you sign this form before they give it to you."

    My friend has been suffering for at least a year with that nerve damage pain from a case of shingles, so I've been sort of tempted to get it. However, since reading the posts people have been kind enough to write and after checking that Tagamet site that was mentioned, I think I'm going to pass once more.

    You know how medications have to list all the side effects even if only one in a million people have that reaction? Well, I'm the one who has the reaction!
    Sometimes the cure really is worse than the disease. So I think I'll opt out of this new shingles game.

    Thanks for writing, my friend. MsE
  12. victoria

    victoria New Member

    Yep, not everyone can take tagamet/cimetidine...

    it's weird how different we all are. For instance, I cannot take Olive Leaf Extract (OLE) and cannot drink green tea (altho I can drink black) - both are things that have helped many people here and elsewhere; I start itching intensely, likely just short of hives...

    BUT for those who can take tagamet/cimetidine and want to try it, here's why it works, from Life Extension Foundation:
    (How to take it):
    ...take 200 mg of cimetidine (Tagamet) three times a day and then 400 mg at bedtime.

    While pharmaceutical companies promote expensive and only partially effective anti-viral drugs, there is evidence dating back more than 20 years that the drug cimetidine (sold over-the-counter as Tagamet) is highly effective in shortening the duration or preventing the outbreaks of herpes and shingles. The problem is that virtually no physicians are prescribing cimetidine to their herpes (or shingles) patients, despite persuasive findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

    When it comes to treating herpes infections, conventional doctors seem to only pay attention to drug company propaganda, while failing to recommend lower cost drugs (like cimetidine) that have been shown to work especially well in herpes patients.

    In 1988, The Life Extension Foundation recommended that certain cancer patients take the drug cimetidine (Tagamet) for the purpose of enhancing immune function. Cimetidine favorably modulates immune function via several mechanisms, but its best documented property is its inhibitory effect on T-suppressor cell function. The immune system is weakened when T-suppressor cells prematurely shut down immune function. Since cimetidine inhibits T-suppressor cell function, it can significantly enhance immune surveillance in some people.

    ...In cases of herpes zoster (shingles) which targets the older population, cimetidine has been successfully used to lessen the debilitating pain and intensity of the skin rash and eruptions

    Cimetidine (Tagamet) is a histamine2 (H2) receptor antagonist and, as such, can contribute to the enhancement of immune function. Various studies indicate cimetidine's effectiveness in suppressing herpes infections.

    The first case observation occurred in August 1977 when a patient developed shingles just before commencing a course of cimetidine for a chronic stomach ulcer. The patient experienced dramatic relief of the shingles pain and rapid disappearance of the eruption.

    On the basis of this observation, cimetidine was prescribed to 21 patients with herpes zoster (shingles). The results were encouraging in 18 out of these 21 patients. The trial was then extended to other herpes virus infections. In 6 out of 7 patients with herpes labialis (lip), the blisters were aborted, and in one patient with herpes keratitis the result was also encouraging, with the attacks being markedly shortened in duration and reduced in frequency. The results of these preliminary trials showed the potential role of cimetidine in the treatment of herpes virus infection.(2)

    In 1996, a clinical trial was conducted on 221 patients with (SHINGLES) herpes zoster who were treated daily with cimetidine at 3 x 200 mg during the day and 1 x 400 mg at night. The results showed that cimetidine shortened the period of disease duration. The authors suggested using cimetidine in the treatment of shingles during the earliest stages of the disease.(3)

    A case reported in Canada resulted in the statement that cimetidine therapy appeared to reduce the expected length of the active phase of herpes zoster from 35 days or more to just 10 days.(4)

    At the Golda Medical Center in Israel, in 1994, a double-blind placebo-control study of cimetidine treatment versus placebo was conducted for one week in 22 patients with herpes zoster (shingles). Those who were treated with cimetidine were found to recover much more quickly from skin rash and pain than those who were given the placebo.(5)

    At the Department of Neurology at Lady Davis Carmel Hospital in Israel, a randomized study evaluated the effect of cimetidine in the treatment of herpes zoster virus. The conclusion was that cimetidine treatment “shortened the median interval until the first decrease in pain, shortened the median interval until the complete resolution of pain and promoted faster complete healing of skin lesions….”(6)

    A paper presented by a researcher at Michigan State University in the Department of Pediatrics and Human Development (1990) stated:(7)

    “Suppressor T lymphocytes possess histamine2 (H2) receptors and contribute significantly to the function of the immune system. Cimetidine has been shown to enhance a variety of immunologic functions both in vivo and in vitro because of its inhibitory effects on suppressor-cell function.

    "Successful tumor immunotherapy has been reported in experimental animals. Patients who received cimetidine were shown to exhibit enhanced cell-mediated immunity as evaluated by increased response to skin-test antigens, restoration of sensitivity following development of acquired tolerance, and increased responses of lymphocytes to mitogen stimulation.

    "Patients also demonstrated that patients with herpes zoster and herpes simplex who were given cimetidine may have benefitted therapeutically from the drug.”

    The consensus from these studies is that when cimetidine is administered to those with herpes simplex or shingles, the result is a DRAMATIC relief of the herpetic pain as well as rapid disappearance of the blisters.

    Novel approach overlooked

    Cimetidine is the generic equivalent of the popular OTC drug better known by the brand name Tagamet. It is used primarily to relieve symptoms of esophageal reflux such as heartburn.

    Tagamet functions as a histamine (H2) receptor antagonist. What most doctors don't know is that T-lymphocyte suppressor cells have the H2 receptor. By blocking this receptor (using an H2 receptor antagonist such as Tagamet), the immune system can be temporarily turned up to help combat certain cancers and herpes viral infections.

    Tagamet is manufactured by SmithKline Pharmaceuticals, headquartered in Philadelphia. When Life Extension asked about Tagamet's potential use in herpes treatment and quizzed about the lack of promotion for same, Carl Friedman from SmithKline's Research and Development Department said,

    “It [cimetidine] went off patent in 1994. We aren't vested in it anymore, so there's nothing to gain from it.”

    Echoing his sentiments, Deborah Frutos, from the pharmaceutical company's Corporate Finance and Administration Department said, “There's no incentive for us to promote our less expensive generic [cimetidine]. If we were to do any study for that, it would take lots of time and money. Even if it proved to be a good study, most physicians have other products they'd rather prescribe.”

    She added, “A grant guarantees that if we prove the drug is indicated for that [treating herpes], the generic would be manufactured and once the patent is protected, anyone can manufacture it. Let's just say we're not going to do it.”

    The unwillingness of drug companies to promote their own products unless a patent guarantees them a fat profit margin is one reason why many promising therapies are overlooked. A person suffering from a herpes simplex or shingles outbreak can obtain Tagamet (cimetidine) over-the-counter for $38 a month as opposed to over $200 a month for the new anti-viral drugs being promoted to doctors. While there are no side-by-side comparisons, published studies indicate that Tagamet (cimetidine) may be MORE effective than FDA-approved anti-viral drugs.

    Here we have cimetidine right under our noses and offered at a fraction of the cost of anti-viral drug therapy. Why is the majority of the medical community ignoring it?

    When we asked three practicing pharmacists if physicians ever recommend cimetidine to herpes patients, all three responded in the negative:
    1) “rarely,”
    2) “not much” and
    3) “uh…sometimes, but not very often.”
    Asking the same question of three physicians, the answers were equally noncommittal and nondescript.

    Cimetidine functions as an immunomodulator. In a collaborative study by several universities worldwide, 125 patients who were scheduled to undergo surgical procedures for colon or rectal cancer were randomized to receive either placebo or cimetidine preoperatively during a five day regimen.

    The conclusion was that a short course of cimetidine appeared to effect patient survival.8 Their hypothesis was based on their knowledge of previous studies that showed cimetidine to be effective as an immunostimulant.

    Herpes zoster (SHINGLES)

    The most common neurologic condition known is herpes zoster, usually referred to as shingles. The CDC says that up to one million people in the United States contract herpes zoster each year. David Cooper, M.D., a contributing editor to JAMA, stated in 1998 that shingles afflicts more than one million people every year.

    Herpes zoster is a reactivation of the virus that causes chicken pox. Once a person has recovered from chicken pox, the virus (varicella) remains dormant, hiding among the connective nerve tissue in the body. No one seems to know why it occurs, although stress and/or a compromised immune system is thought to exacerbate the condition, but it usually activates in people over the age of 50.

    Traveling through the ganglia, it causes a tingling, stinging or burning sensation. A couple days later, once the virus has completed its journey to the skin, an irritating and painful rash and accompanying blisters may erupt. The resulting condition can be so painful, the patient may be unable to tolerate clothing or anything that touches the affected area.


    Hope that helps someone...

    [This Message was Edited on 07/03/2008]
  13. MsE

    MsE New Member

    I also found a good rundown on this at the Mayo Clinic website.