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Why, if the vaccines work, is South Korea experiencing year after year increases in chickenpox (varicella) outbreaks as their mandated vaccine uptake (97%) reaches close to universal compliance?
In 2005, the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine was mandated in South Korean for infants at 12 to 15 months of age. Despite near universal vaccine uptake (97% by 2011), rather than see a reduced burden of chickenpox in South Korea as would be expected, no substantial decreases have been observed there nationwide. Quite to the contrary, the number of varicella patients reported to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) increased from 22.6 cases per 100,000 in 2006 to 71.6 cases per 100,000 in 2011.
The obvious question emerges: If the chickenpox vaccine is effective, why is a population whose vaccination rates have been steadily increasing year after year seeing increasing rates of breakthrough infection?
This glaring failure of varicella vaccination in South Korea lead a group of Korean researchers to conduct a series of studies to better understand the impact of varicella vaccination in South Korea, the results of which were published earlier this year in the journal Clinical and Vaccine Immunology in a study titled "Varicella and varicella vaccination in South Korea."
The Korean research team conducted a case-based study, a case-control study, and an immunogenicity and safety study, in order to identify the reasons for the failure of the vaccine. The results were reported as follows:
- Case-based study: "One hundred and seventy-six children with varicella younger than 16 years of age were enrolled in the study. Among the study groups, 80 subjects (45.5%) were girls and 19 subjects (11.1%) were younger than 1 year of age. The largest number of the patients belonged to the 1-to-4-years age group, with the mean age of 4.6 ± 3.2 years and median age of 4 years." "Among 152 varicella patients who were 1 year of age or older, 139 patients (91.4%) had been vaccinated." [emphasis added]
- Case-control study: "One hundred and thirty-five varicella patients younger than 16 years of age were enrolled, their mean age was 4.8 ± 3.2 years, and varicella vaccination coverage rate was 91.7% in patients older than 1 year of age. Breakthrough varicella was confirmed in 82.2% of all enrolled varicella cases, and all of the vaccinated varicella cases were breakthrough infection." [emphasis added]
- Immunogenicity and safety study: "A total of 126 healthy children were vaccinated with a single dose of Suduvax (Green Cross, South Korea). Four children lost for follow-up and two children with positive prevaccination FAMA titers were excluded from further analysis. Of the remaining 120 children, the seroconversion rate (varicella antibodies detectable) and geometric mean titers for FAMA antibody were 76.67% and 5.31, respectively (Tables 3 and and4).4). Adverse reactions were analyzed for a total of 126 children. Local adverse reactions were observed in 16 children (12.7%), including 12 cases of erythema, 4 cases of swelling, 6 cases of tenderness, and 3 cases of petechiae. Systemic adverse reactions were observed in 15 children (11.9%), including 12 cases of fever, 2 cases of chills, 3 cases of lassitude, and 3 cases of rash which didn't look like varicella. Serious adverse events occurred in three children (2, rotaviral enteritis; 1, acute pharyngitis) but were not judged to be vaccine related.|"
The researchers compared prelicensure data on the Suduvax vaccine to the above mentioned research results and found the vaccine in actual practice has "much lower" immunogenicity, concluding: "Suduvax (Green Cross, South Korea) may not be immunogenic enough to be effective in preventing varicella in South Korea."
The current prospective case-based study and case-control study suggests that most cases of varicella occurring in South Korea are caused by breakthrough infection in vaccine compliant individuals. A breakthrough infection is defined as a vaccine recipient contracting the very disease the vaccine is intended to prevent, either through infection from the vaccine strain or a wild-type strain.
Additionally, the researchers noted:
"Breakthrough disease is allegedly milder than varicella in unvaccinated individuals (27), but our study showed that varicella vaccination did not seem to alleviate clinical symptoms, although vaccinated patients were cared for more in the outpatient clinics with less serious appraisal of the disease by their parents."
Consider that the ultimate justification for any medically unnecessary intervention like vaccination is whether the benefit of intervening outweigh the harms of not doing so. It is an irreducible empirical fact that you can't prove with absolute certainty that any single vaccine has ever prevented any single disease, because the projected beneficial outcome is always going to be a non-event (i.e. not being infected with the disease). In other words, you can't prove cause-and-effect when the cause (vaccination) can only be linked to a non-empirical effect (not contracting the vaccine specific disease) that can just as logically be attributed to our natural innate/adaptive immunity. You can, on the other hand, link vaccination to adverse effects with infinitely more plausibility. In the case of chickenpox (varicella) vaccine, for instance, not only are immediate or near immediate acute reactions observable in 1 in 4 vaccine recipients, but at least 2 dozen adverse health effects – some including chronic and life-threatening – have been documented in the biomedical literature. View the GreenMedInfo.com Varicella Vaccination page for direct access to the study abstracts.
Clearly, if the vaccines don't work to prevent the very disease they are designed to, and the likelihood of being harmed is high, what justifies their use any longer?
Varicella vaccine is not an exception, as far as failure goes. As we recently reported in another Asian population, the Chinese have one of the highest measles vaccine uptake rates in the world, but are continually facing measles outbreaks. Vaccine failure, in fact, is so extensively documented, that it is disturbing how anyone who promotes authentic vaccine awareness – that is, making the public and professional castes aware of the published research on their unintended, adverse effects and/or non-effectivenes –is reflexively characterized by the pro-vaccine camp as being 'anti-vaccine,' 'anti-science.' Beyond the antipodes of 'pro-' and 'anti-' vaccine is the truth. And since vaccinology and the pro-vaccine agenda is ostensibly 'evidence-based,' criticism should remain focused on the research itself, and not those who report on it or simply exercise their legal right and responsibility (where it is still sacrosanct) to opt-out of this intervention.
 Lee SG, Ki M. 2011. Korea national immunization survey. Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chungcheongnam-do, South Korea