Hippocrates thought convalescence was important to recovery and health. For convalescence to happen, sickness must come first. This places sickness as part of the natural order of life.
Today, Western medicine attempts to skip the natural order; take immunizations as an example. The chief idea is to use technology to prevent pain, save healthcare costs for society, get people back to work more quickly, and enrich the entrepreneurs that bring us the magic.
Vaccinations are a technological attempt at a preemptive, hurry-up offense to dictate to nature. They are essentially the opposite of the Hippocratic, or Benelles approach, which is to seek health in a slow, steady, long-term manner.
As a 36-year-old having recently suffered a herpes zoster (shingles) infection on my left leg, I’m going to put the spotlight on the chickenpox and shingles immunizations to measure return on investment.
The chickenpox vaccine was introduced in the US in 1995. Before that time, the average annual mortality rate from the virus was 105. Which sounds bad, until you realize that was out of a pool of 4 million infected per year. Plus, the key point: risk for varicella-related death since 1990 is 25 times higher for adults than for children (Marin et al 2007).
This chickenpox data tells us two things. First, about 48 children a year did not handle the varicella virus well. Second, adults handle the virus 25 times worse. Essentially, the data points to the chickenpox as a safe virus for children to contract. Historically, parents even had pox parties to purposely infect their children at a younger age.
Given the facts, it would not make sense to develop a chickenpox vaccine. On the contrary, what would make sense is allowing full, wild prevalence of the chickenpox virus so that the entire population could maintain a regular exposure, catching the virus early in life and maintaining constant contact with it through middle-age as a natural booster to prevent a higher-risk occurrence of chickenpox or shingles later in life.
Our chickenpox and shingles vaccine program does not take the big picture into consideration. It sees human health as computer-esque; disconnected pieces to be individually manipulated. It fits perfectly into the umbrella of conventional medicine, which fails to see health as a rich, interconnected organism connected to a natural order which can’t simply be skipped. Thus, as the chicken pox vaccine has become near-mandatory for children in the US, shingles occurrences among adults have increased by 90% (Yih et al 2005). This is because adults are no longer exposed to children with chickenpox, breaking the natural order of regular exposure and boosted immunity.
Effectively, the United States has vaccinated away a minor virus (chickenpox) among its kids, and put its adults at much greater risk of a serious virus (chickenpox, shingles). Plus, the watered-down virus (the vaccine) gives kids less exposure, which is likely to lead to unintended weakness for them later in life.
Vaccines don’t have the meaningful risk/reward relationship they once had. The risk is significant: vaccine injury is an actual industry. In fact, there is a $0.75 excise tax on every vaccine to fund the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which compensates people found to be injured by vaccines. There are even instructions on the site for how to hire a lawyer. As a parent, I would probably risk vaccine injury to my children if polio or smallpox were making the rounds, but not chickenpox; and frankly not measles, mumps or rubella either.
Even worse, the finance of these vaccines is backwards. A 2007 study from Vaccine magazine found that the shingles vaccine would provide $103 million of annual healthcare savings (Pellissier et al 2007). Ok, let’s put aside the ethical implications of citing theoretical savings of vaccines from a magazine entitled Vaccine; the math is still upside-down. The annual increase in healthcare costs to treat shingles since the advent of the chickenpox vaccine is more than $700 million (Patel et al 2008). We’re coming out $600 million behind.
In a nutshell, our use of varicella immunization technology has merely shifted pain and risk to a different set of people, increased healthcare costs for society, prevented a different set of people from getting back to work quickly…but has enriched the entrepreneurs that bring this magic to us. So you can say that our chickenpox and shingles vaccine programs are partially successful.
The obvious Western medicine solution to this problem is to make a shingles vaccine mandatory for every person. Then, the chickenpox vaccine and the shingles vaccine could simply be given at the same time, along with dozens of others. The addition of the shingles vaccine for everyone will introduce a new disruption to the natural order, which will warrant another vaccine to be created and added. There will be unlimited financial growth in the vaccination industry.
The biggest threat to our national healthcare is rent-seeking by the medical industry. The disjointed, small-picture view of corporations and doctors is harmful to people’s health yet fully endorsed by captured government health agencies.
Until more benelles-friendly industries work together to create political action groups, taxpayer dollars will continue to be transferred rather exclusively to well-heeled insiders in the medical industry. Our society needs a greater diversity of paths for our brightest minds to enrich themselves upon; paths supportive of public health such as organic food supply, solar energy, and natural habitat preservation. Personally, I’m betting that many of our brightest doctors and pharma workers are ethically fed-up with their industry’s phony practices and are hoping political action will shift taxpayer money toward cleaner paths for their children to become wealthy—and support their grandchildren.