How do you know if what you’re seeing is really a drug commercial in disguise?
It’s not easy, especially where the shingles shot is concerned.
For the longest time, we were bombarded with those sneaky Merck TV ads made up to look like public service announcements. They started out with the shingles jingle, a creepy piano tune that played in the background, while actors made up to look like they had a shingles rash let you know just how horrible it is.
And while the ad spots identify themselves as being brought to you by Merck, they never directly mention the shot they’re intended to promote (a.k.a. Zostavax). Instead, they urge you to “talk to your doctor” about a vaccine.
That’s how they get away with not mentioning all the side effects!
But now, you may have seen yet another enticement to get you to roll up your sleeve for that vaccine, coming in the form of an urgent announcement issued by the American College of Cardiology (ACC).
And just like all those television spots, this one also leads down the same path…right to Zostavax.
A special relationship
At first glance, the headlines make it seem like a frightening connection.
“Shingles boosts risk of heart attack and stroke,” reads one. Another warns that if you get shingles, rush out to have your heart checked.
But before you rush out to get a jab of Zostavax, currently the only shingles vaccine on the market (although GlaxoSmithKline is hoping to change that soon), there are some important facts to know.
First, there’s the study itself, published as a “research letter” in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. It claims that if you come down withshingles, it puts you at a significantly higher risk of getting a heart attack or stroke.
The South Korean researchers who did the study used data from a national health insurance registry, concluding that the condition will up your chances of a “cardiovascular event” by 41 percent.
That sure sounds risky… but not so fast.
How, exactly, it is that shingles might raise your heart attack risk isn’t mentioned — or even known. In fact, ACC President Dr. Mary Norine Walsh has been quoted as saying, “It’s not a direct link.”
As with any kind of health issue, Dr. Walsh said, there can be an increase in your risk of heart problems. As she explained it, the lowering of your immune system, which can happen in any illness, can on its own “be responsible” for those higher rates of strokes the researchers found.
So, knowing that, why would the ACC send out a press release hyping shingles as some kind of extra-dangerous risk to your heart?
One answer could be a cozy special relationship the ACC has with Merck.
It turns out that over the past 35 years, “Merck has generously offered almost 200 fellowships” worth $70,000 each for research in adult cardiology in conjunction with the ACC.
And while the ACC press release was more than happy to say how “important” it is that doctors warn their patients of this increased risk, it didn’t bother to tell us anything about Zostavax.
So, let me pick up here where the group fell short.
Although Merck claims that Zostavax is 51 percent effective in preventing shingles, other research has found that prevention number to be as low as one in 175.
And the older you are — especially if you’re over 70 — the less likely it is that the shot will do anything to protect you against shingles.
The ACC also didn’t bother to mention any of the side effects, which can include not only injuries to your eye, but high blood pressure, dizziness (which can result in falls), and severe nerve pain.
And guess what else? It can put you at risk to develop an actual case of shingles.
Plus that, it’s like a witches’ brew of horrific ingredients.
For instance, if you bend over backward to avoid MSG, you should know that this brain-damaging flavor enhancer (added to Zostavax as a “stabilizer”) will be injected right into you when you get the shot.
Also on its ingredient list are human cells, “including DNA” of a baby boy who was aborted in 1966.
So, instead of a jab of Zostavax, why not take the advice of HSI panel member Dr. Allan Spreen? To protect your nervous system, go with a daily dose of 500 mcg of B-12. And, should you come down with shingles, the only shot you should get is of B-12, which has been shown to be very effective in alleviating it.
But whatever you do, there’s still no reason to run out and get a shingles shot. And every reason not to.
“Shingles increases risk of heart attack, stroke” American College of Cardiology, July 3, 2017, ScienceDaily, sciencedaily.com