The Zostavax vaccine was intended to protect people from shingles but may have caused some who took the vaccine to get the virus or to experience serious or life-threatening complications. Some of these patients or loved ones of those who died after receiving the Zostavax injection have filed lawsuits against Merck & Co.
Zostavax lawsuits have been filed by people who experienced:
- Brain damage
- Liver failure
Merck is facing at least 50 Zostavax lawsuits and more may be expected.
Shingles is an outbreak of painful blisters which usually occurs in a band on one side of the torso, head or neck or other areas or the body. It most commonly affects older people who have previously been exposed to chickenpox.
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, the Herpes zoster virus which is also called Varicella zoster. It occurs when the chickenpox virus goes dormant to hide in the nervous system, to be reactivated at a later time.
The Zostavax shingles vaccine is a live, attenuated virus which is a weakened form of the Herpes zoster virus which should induce the body to create antibodies against shingles. This is different from other types of vaccines which use portions of virus or non-viable, killed organisms to produce an immune response.
Because Zostavax uses a live virus, rather than becoming immune, some patients contracted shingles from the virus intended to protect them. Some of these patients may have developed other complications as well.
In addition, Zostavax is only effective at producing shingles immunity for about half of the people who receive it and must be repeated every six years.
Zostavax Side Effects and Complications
Zostavax may cause a number of side effects which are common to many types of vaccinations. In other cases, reactions may be more severe including those who contract the illness because their immune systems are weakened and cannot fight the live, attenuated virus.
Common side effects of the vaccine include:
- Pain at injection site
- Mild fever
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
Some people who get the vaccine may have side effects which are more severe or even life-threatening.
Serious side effects may include:
- Shingles illness
- Chickenpox infection
- Rash or hives
- Necrotizing retinitis or other eye disorder
- Hearing loss
- Brain damage
- Liver failure
Merck has been accused of failing to inform the public about the possibility of shingles infections until it was added to prescribing information in December of 2014. The vaccine had been on the market since 2006 but the warning was not initially listed and Zostavax lawsuits have claimed that the omission was intended to conceal risks of the vaccine.
Merck Faces Multiple Vaccine Lawsuits
Merck is one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies involved in the vaccine industry in the U.S. and world. The company has faced lawsuits for issues relating to their vaccines in addition to the injury lawsuits they face for Zostavax.
A 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act protects pharmaceutical companies against lawsuits for vaccine injuries. The act requires that injury claims for childhood vaccines be filed with he U.S. government and not through the court system. A National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was established to provide compensation to injured patients. It has paid out over $3 billion for a number of vaccine injuries caused by childhood immunizations.
MMR Vaccine Lawsuits – Two former Merck scientists have claimed that the company manipulated clinical test results to ensure that their MMR vaccine would not face commercial competition. The scientists have said that mumps outbreaks show that the vaccine has fallen below the 95% efficacy rate required to maintain their market standing and that the vaccines are no longer as effective.
Gardasil HPV Vaccine Lawsuits – 49 patients who experienced complications or injury after receiving Merck’s HPV vaccine, Gardasil. The claims included episodes of Gillian-Barre Syndrome (GBS), blindness, seizures and other complications including death.
Zostavax Injury Lawsuit
As Zostavax is intended for patients over the age of 50, Zostavax is not listed under the childhood vaccine act. Merck is not protected against Zostavax lawsuits and is responsible for any wrongdoing or negligence that may have contributed to injury.
Multiple Zostavax lawsuits have already been filed in federal, state and local courts. Federal lawsuits were consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in August 2018 but other lawsuits may be pending in local courts as well.
Zostavax lawsuits have claimed that the vaccine is dangerous, and can cause serious complications or may lead to death. The lawsuits also claim that Merck purposefully and intentionally hid the information about the risks of the vaccine and failed to inform the public or medical profession about he potential for complications.
People who took the Zostavax vaccine and developed shingles or suffered serious complications or loved ones of those who died after taking the vaccine may be eligible for compensation.
Complications may include:
- Shingles outbreak
- Chickenpox outbreak
- Blindness or vision loss
- Brain damage
- Spinal cord damage
- Herpetic or postherpetic neuralgia
- Autoimmune disorder such as Gillian-Barre Syndrome
- Cardiovascular event
Compensation in past medical injury lawsuits has included payment for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering or wrongful death when the patient has died. There are no guarantees but anyone who suffered injury after Zostavax vaccine should seek advice from a lawyer familiar with Zostavax and vaccine injury.
Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA.