Shingles Vaccine – Zostamax – Is it Safe? Should I get it?

According to Center for Disease Control – Shingles effects about 1 in 3 Americans. While shingles can hit anyone at any age, it is most common in the elderly.  Shingles is a very painful viral infection that, in extreme cases, can lead to permanent impairment.  This leads to the all-important question: “Should you get the shingles vaccine?”

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Shingles Vaccine – Zostamax – Is it Safe?

In order to answer this, I need to go over some key facts.  First of all, shingles is the same virus as chicken pox.  In fact, the medical term for this disease is Herpes Zoster.  The invasive virus is varicella-zoster.  As you may have guessed, that is why Merck named the current vaccine “Zostamax”.  If you had chicken pox, the virus exists inside you.  However, in most cases, your immune system knows how to deal with it and keeps it at bay.

Every once in a while, the disease “breaks free” from the grasp of your immune system.  When this happens, you have contracted shingles.  Common symptoms include pain, burning, numbness, tingling, severe nerve pain, blisters, itching, sensitivity to touch and a red rash.  In severe cases it can lead to permanent pain, vision loss, skin infections, and permanent neurological problems.

The Vaccine

According to the CDC, the shingles vaccine is about 50% effective.  However, the vaccine’s effectiveness increases with age.  While Merck, who makes the vaccine, recommends Zostamax for adults 50 and older, the CDC actually recommends it in seniors age 60 and older.  So, I bet I can predict your next questions.  What are the side effects?  Does the vaccine contain mercury?

In answer to your questions, yes, Zostamax contains Thimerosal, which is ethyl-mercury.  This ingredient is highly controversial.  Some say it is safe, while others say it is dangerous.  Since the most common (alleged) complication is autism in children, it probably poses little threat to the elderly.  However, I’ll leave the Thimerosal controversy for another time.  Or, you can decide that on your own.

Other side effects include (according to Pain at the injection site (51%), Rash at the injection site (48.1%), Swelling (40.4%), headache (incidence not known), weakness & low energy (incidence not known), cardiovascular disease, fever and death.  However, in the study, the placebo group had the exact same number of deaths.  That is, there were 793 deaths in the study group and 793 deaths in the control or placebo group.

Should You Get the Vaccine?

To be honest, I can’t advise you on whether or not you should get the vaccine.  Keep in mind it is about 50% effective, however, as you age the effectiveness increases.  As a result, if it were me, I probably wouldn’t even consider the vaccine until I was at least 60 years old.  Disclaimer: that does not constitute advice.  When any treatment, and I do mean any treatment you should weigh the risks and the benefits.  If the benefits outweigh the risks, it may be a good idea.  Otherwise, you may want to avoid it.

Are There Alternatives?

There really is no “replacement” for the shingles vaccine.  However, remember that if you contracted chicken pox, your body is fighting off shingles all the time.  So the real question is, “what compromised your immune system to allow the disease to take hold”.  While I don’t treat or prevent shingles, enzyme nutrition can help support a properly working immune system.  If your immune system works like it should, the likelihood of getting shingles goes way down.

Did y0u have chicken pox as a child?  Are you concerned about healthy immune system function?  If so, contact us and set up a consultation or call us at 425-868-0120.  I will personally sit down with you and talk about your suffering and how it affects your life.  I will even do some preliminary testing as well as Bio Impedance Analysis, which is trusted by both NASA and Cancer Treatment Centers of America.  This will help me determine if you are a good candidate for care.  If you’re not, we’ll make every effort to provide the proper referral.


After many years of clinical practice, Dr. Marrone has forged a remarkable career as a practitioner, educator and lecturer.  His extensive knowledge of functional enzyme nutrition has made him a much sought-after practitioner.  If you are suffering from health problems that nobody seems to have the answer to, or are sick and tired of the revolving door approach of modern medicine, give Dr. Marrone a call to set up a consultation.

Shingles Vaccine
Shingles Vaccine – should you get it?