(Updated March 9, 2018)
In an attempt to prevent shingles, some patients may have unintentionally contracted the virus from their shingles vaccination.
The shingles vaccine Zostavax may cause serious injuries, including shingles, blindness, and even death. Injured patients are now filing lawsuits against Zostavax’s manufacturer Merck (and its owner, Bayer) for failing to warn about the potential side effects.
If you or a loved one were injured by Zostavax, please contact us. Our attorneys are investigating these claims to help patients seek justice.
What Are the Side Effects of the Zostavax Vaccine?
The vaccine only works in about half of patients, and even then it will only last for about six years.
Zostavax is a shingles vaccine for patients 50 years and older, an age when the virus is more common. It’s caused by dormant chickenpox viruses which can lay in the body’s nervous system for years, eventually creating shingles. The virus is typically characterized by a painful band of blisters on one side of the torso.
Zostavax uses a weakened form of the herpes zoster virus—commonly referred to as shingles—in order to activate the immune system. After fighting the weakened version of the virus, the body builds immunity. At best, the vaccine only works in 50 percent of patients, and even then it will only last for about six years.
For patients who are immunocompromised, their bodies may not be able to fight off the small dose of the virus. This can cause a host of injuries, including chickenpox and shingles itself.
Lawsuits claim that even though Merck knew Zostavax could cause shingles, it didn’t list this as a side effect until December 2014—years after the vaccine was approved by the FDA in 2006.
The FDA reports that Zostavax side effects can include the following:
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Eye disorders, including necrotizing retinitis
But some plaintiffs allege that Zostavax caused even more serious complications, like blindness, hearing loss, paralysis, brain damage, and fatal liver failure.
Does Merck Face Other Vaccine Lawsuits?
Merck is currently battling another lawsuit for its mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. In 2010, two former Merck scientists accused the company of manipulating clinical test results to maintain its U.S. monopoly on the MMR vaccine.
Merck scientists accused the company of manipulating clinical test results.
The court documents allege that Merck noticed in the late 1990s that the vaccine was falling below the 95 percent efficiency requirement necessary to sell the vaccine. Instead of improving the vaccine, Merck allegedly tinkered with the clinical trial results—which the two whistleblowers say they were asked to help carry out.
The former Merck scientists allege that this fraudulent testing may have contributed to the major outbreaks of mumps in 2006 and 2009, because children were receiving weaker vaccinations.
What are Some Notable Vaccine Settlements?
Many pharmaceutical companies are protected under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, which requires that patients file injury claims with the federal government. However, Zostavax is not listed in the act’s injury table, allowing injured patients to file lawsuits in court.
Since the creation of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, injured patients have received $3.6 billion. In some cases, injured patients have been able to recover millions for the harm they suffered.
In 2014, Sarah Behie received $4.5 million, with an eventual payout of $11.6 million, after a flu shot left her partially paralyzed. In 2010, she developed Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare side effect of flu shots in which the immune system attacks the nervous system.
In 2013, U.S. courts paid nearly $6 million for Gardasil, Merck’s HPV vaccination for females aged 9 to 26 years old. The settlement compensated 49 injured patients who suffered from severe side effects, including GBS, seizures, blindness, and even death.
What Do Zostavax Lawsuits Allege?
Lawsuits against Merck and Bayer are currently being filed in state and federal courts in Pennsylvania. As more complaints are filed, they will likely be combined in a mass tort.
Zostavax lawsuits allege some combination of the following:
- Zostavax can cause serious side effects, including death.
- Merck failed to warn patients of the vaccine’s potential side effects.
- Merck employees “intentionally, willfully, and knowingly misrepresented” the safety of Zostavax.
Who is Eligible for a Zostavax Lawsuit?
If you or a loved one received the Zostavax vaccine after 2006 and were diagnosed with shingles, you may be eligible for a lawsuit. Please note that shingles must have appeared at least three weeks after the vaccination date but within one year from receiving Zostavax.
If you or a loved one suffered from one of the following injuries within two years from the vaccination date, you may also qualify for a lawsuit:
- Serious neurological diseases or disorders, including brain inflammation (encephalitis)
- Herpetic Neuralgia (disorder in the nerves)
- Postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN (pain continuing after shingles blister subside)
- Myelitis (spinal cord inflammation)
- Bell’s Palsy (facial paralysis)
- Vision problems, including: blindness, eye infections, and retinal damage
- Hearing loss
- Autoimmune disorders: Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, Meniere’s Disease, etc.
- Cardiovascular event
- Congestive heart failure
A lawsuit can result in compensation for the following:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Injured by the Shingles Vaccine? We Can Help
Our attorneys have recovered more than $5 billion against negligent companies, including Big Pharma. If you or a loved one were injured because of the Zostavax vaccine, we can help you hold Merck accountable.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. It costs nothing unless we secure a jury award or settlement for you.
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