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Merck Admits Shingles Vaccine Can Cause Eye Damage… and Shingles

elderly woman looking down with her eyes closed

While researchers don’t know why the shingles shot may cause keratitis, the condition has been linked to autoimmune disorders.

Two important Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved changes to the warning label of Merck Pharmaceutical’s shingles vaccine, Zostavax, have been made since the controversial drug was introduced in 2006. The first was in August 2014, when, in addition to potentially causing chickenpox, another side effect was added: shingles! That’s right. The vaccine that had been—and continues to be—aggressively marketed to prevent seniors from contracting this excruciating condition was found to actually cause shingles in some individuals.

In February of this year, the FDA approved a label change to warn those who prescribe the Zostavax vaccine of another potential side effect: “Eye Disorders: necrotizing retinitis.”

Vision Damage linked to Shingles Vaccine

This disorder, as well as keratitis, causes inflammation and scarring of the eye tissue and can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated quickly. It was reported by WebMD 20 individuals (children and adults) developed keratitis within a month of receiving a chickenpox or shingles vaccine. Keratitis symptoms for adults developed within 24 days of vaccination, while symptoms in children began within 14 days of vaccination.

“Researchers concluded there is a probable relationship between the vaccine and the eye inflammation, though the study wasn’t designed to prove the vaccine actually caused the condition,” according to an article posted by the personal injury law firm of Matthews & Associates.

While researchers don’t know why the shingles shot may cause keratitis, the condition has been linked to autoimmune disorders.  The connection between vaccines and autoimmune disease has been widely acknowledged, most recently by medical researchers worldwide in a compilation of studies published in 2015 in the medical textbook, Vaccines & Autoimmunity.

Insignificant Effectiveness of Zostavax

According to the authors of a Health Sciences Institute (HSI) article in January, 2016, “UCLA researchers found that only one in 175 people who get the vaccine will be able to dodge a shingles flare-up.” While Merck claims Zostavax is 50 percent effective, in the placebo group, 3.3 percent of the study participants developed shingles, compared to 1.6 percent in the vaccine group. So, while that is a 50 percent difference, the real, absolute risk reduction is just 1.7 percentage points.

More Shingles Vaccine “Side Effects”

According to its current warning label, Zostavax’s most common side effects are “headache, redness, pain, itching, swelling, hard lump, warmth, or bruising where the shot was given.” However, more serious “side effects” include:

  • allergic reactions, which may be serious and may include difficulty in breathing or swallowing
  • chickenpox
  • fever
  • hives at the injection site
  • joint pain
  • muscle pain
  • nausea
  • rash
  • rash at the injection site
  • shingles
  • swollen glands near the injection site (that may last a few days to a few weeks)

Nevertheless, despite its questionable effectiveness at preventing shingles (and the fact that it can cause shingles!) and the serious side effects it can produce, online sites funded by the pharmaceutical industry (e.g., WebMD) and neighborhood pharmacies continue to ominously advise seniors to get the shingles vaccines—at a cost of $150-$300 per injection to insurance companies. Zostavax is clearly effective at something—and there’s nothing “potential” about the revenue it’s generating for its manufacturer, promoters and distributors.


Note: This article was reprinted with the author’s permission. Claire Dwoskin is founder and president of the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute (CMSRI). 

11 Responses to Merck Admits Shingles Vaccine Can Cause Eye Damage… and Shingles

  1. Louie Pastor Reply

    October 30, 2016 at 10:06 am

    I got talked in in taking the vaccine. I never been chronically sick. I have been active all my life. I developed polymyalgia rheumitica. In Merck’s small print it mentioned that is a rare side affect. That does not help folks who suffer through the pain and the prednisone protocol which has side affects like cataracts. I would love to sue Merk, but they are protected by laws. There has to be a way to take Merck and the rest of Big Pharma down.

  2. Cypher Reply

    September 14, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    On the Zostavax vaccine insert there is a possible side effected listed of “congestive heart failure”. I begged my mother not to get this vaccine and she did it anyway without my knowledge. She developed an irregular heartbeat a few months after. I do suspect the vaccine as the culprit but I will never know.

  3. Redpill1 Reply

    September 2, 2016 at 8:20 am

    My uncle had the shingles shot and sure enough he got shingles. That’s one thing that isn’t reported nearly enough. Just like any vaccine-if you are injected with a live virus you can not only shed the virus but you can also become infected by the virus. CDC is well aware of this and they actually use it as part of their fear mongering campaign to push vaccination.

    The Shingles Vaccine is just a double version of the Chicken Pox vaccine know as Varicella. An analysis of a paper is provided by Dr. David Brownstein. The CDC doesn’t want people to know the vaccine is not as effective and is potentially dangerous”

    Prevention of Herpes Zoster in Older Adults by Jared Kocher published on November 1, 2013. Under the section heading Practice Pointers, Brownstein found these gems:

    “[T]he author states that, over a median surveillance period of 3.12 years, with over 52,000 participants, there was a 51% relative risk reduction in confirmed cases of herpes zoster in those that received the vaccine. Furthermore, the author stated that among those aged 60-69, the number needed to treat to prevent one case of shingles was 50. Among those 70 years and older, the number needed to treat was 100.

    “These numbers show that, in those aged 60-69, the shingles vaccine was ineffective for 98% (forty-nine out of fifty) of those studied. For those aged 70 and older, the vaccine was 99% ineffective, since 99 out of 100 received no benefit.”

    So according to the data, the shingles vaccine was a 98 percent to 99 percent failure. Also, the number needed to harm from the vaccine was 2.8. That means that for every 2.8 vaccines administered, one patient was harmed. And for every 100 vaccinated, one patient suffered a severe adverse reaction like a rash, fever or hospitalization.

    Brownstein then presented this evidence in the form of a letter to the editor of the American Family Physician Journal. The letter was rejected without explanation.

    Worthless Medicine
    So should you have the shingles vaccine? The evidence indicates the answer is “no.” It further indicates the medical establishment doesn’t want you to know this.

    My uncles shingles bout cleared up with the use of a high potency Colloidal Silver called “Meso Silver’ marketed by Purest Colloidal. This is not an ad for the product I have no vested interest in the company. I am just providing info on what worked effectively for him. He took a tablespoon 3x’s a day and sprayed the lesion with the product. Pain subsided overnight and was gone in 3 days. Lesion were gone in 8 days but most of that time was pain free. This product can also be taken as a preventative for any viral or bacterial germs one comes into contact with.

  4. Linda Abernethy Reply

    September 1, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    Work on strengthening the immune system thru prpoper diet etc.

  5. Marene Mayer Reply

    September 1, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Stress Causes shingles Virus to rear it’s ugly head…..so the key is to take a good Stress Herb or supplement….and if you do start to come down with Shingles – as I did years ago….Take a good Viral Homeopathic and Virus herb supplement along with more Stress Herbs / supplements. It worked for me and several others I have told to do this.

  6. Brenda Ramos Reply

    September 1, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    I wanted to know if there may be a link between the shingles vaccine and pancreatic cancer? Pancreatic cancer seems to be on the rise and I have known of two elderly acquaintances who recently died from this cancer. I’m not sure if they had the vaccines or not but, I did happen to see an article about Zostamax and pancreatitis. If anyone has a web page or any information on this, I would be so appreciative in learning about this.Thank you.

  7. Diane H Reply

    September 1, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    I am not a medical professional, but considering that high dose intravenous Vitamin C can subdue/cure shingles, I would be sure to maintain good levels of this vitamin. Also be sure that Vitamin D3 levels are high, as this vitamin is critical to all cells of the body, and all bodily functions.

  8. ChristianCrunchyMomma Reply

    September 1, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    Well we are seeing an increase in shingles because of decline in chickenpox.
    Once you have had the chickenpox then when you are exposed to those with the chickenpox it helps build your immunity & decreases the risk of shingles.
    Also the shingles and chickenpox vaccine are made from aborted babies so some of their DNA ends up in the vaccine and that can mess with peoples bodies.
    Read some books
    Inform yourself on both sides and make your decision.

  9. Swati Reply

    September 1, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    Diane Weston,

    To prevent shingles, it is essential for adults to frequently come in contact with children infected with chickenpox. This is nature’s way to boost immunity in adults for shingles. Therefore, chickenpox vaccine is one major reason for shingles resurgence in adults. Abolishing chickenpox vaccine can help preventing shingles in adults.

  10. Diane Watson Reply

    September 1, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Other than strong immune system, what advise do you have for prevention? Patients are afraid of contracting and it sounds like all the vaccines have bad side effects and are not worth the risk.

    • Carol Hiltner Reply

      September 1, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      In the throes of shingles last month, I read that shingles can be exacerbated by in imbalance between L-Lysine and L-Arginine.

      I discovered that my diet had been high in L-Arginine, so I took 1000 mg extra L-Lysine. The pain and itching stopped immediately.

      I took more on subsequent days. The shingles healed over within two days — MUCH faster than if the disease had run its course.

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