Zostavax Shingles Vaccine Litigation Guide

The lawsuits involving the Shingles Vaccine Zostavax state the company failed to warn the public about the alleged risks associated with this drug. According to the accusations, many patients who were injected with the vaccine later contracted the disease or suffered from serious side effects such as blindness, paralysis, nerve damage and even death.

Bellwether Trial Date: Undetermined

Injury: Shingles, blindness, nerve damage and death.

Manufacturer:  Merck & Co.

Settlement Amounts: EST $100,000 – $1,000,000

What Is Zostavax?

Zostavax is the only approved shingles vaccine in the United States, and it is manufactured by Merck, who received approval to market it in 2006.  It is widely prescribed to reduce the risk of chickenpox (varicella), shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) in patients above the age of 50. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only recommend it only to people 60 years old and older.

The vaccine contains a live yet weakened (attenuated) form of the chickenpox virus – also known as herpes zoster. Once a patient has had varicella, the virus lays dormant inside his or her nerves, but it can reactivate and cause shingles whenever the immune system is weakened (such as after an infection or when under stress). Zostavax acts by stimulating the immune system to fight this less-effective form of the virus, in the attempt of keeping it dormant. However, a single shot only works for no more than 5 years and will reduce the risk of developing shingles outbreaks by just 51%.

Why is Zostavax dangerous?

Since Zostavax had no competition to fight against, it quickly became one of Merck’s bestsellers providing the company with $749 million in revenues just in 2016. However, the drugmaker never adequately warned the public about the fact that the vaccination might cause shingles and chickenpox – the same diseases it was intended to prevent. Some patients, such as the immunosuppressed or the elderly, are much more vulnerable than others to this risk, and its consequences could be extremely dire.

Herpes Zoster manifest as a highly contagious and itchy rash that occurs as a band or stripe on one side of the body. Its symptoms include headaches, chills and fever, and may expose to unnecessary dangers frail individuals whose health is already compromised. Varicella and shingles might, in fact, cause severe damage to the nervous system, especially if contracted later in life. Consequences include encephalitis, paralysis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, meningitis and even congestive heart failure and stroke.

According to the National Vaccine Information Center, a review of the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) found a total 1,141 serious adverse events reports connected with Zostavax. More than one-third of these negative reactions occurred in seniors aged 65 to 75, and 90 of them eventually led to the patient’s death. A study led by researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia also found an association with corneal inflammation (keratitis) which may evolve into necrotizing retinitis and even eye blindness. Chronic nerve inflammations with pain that can persist for years have also been reported, with side effects including facial paralysis, brain inflammation and balance problems.

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Merck’s Fraudulent MMR Vaccine Testing

Merck’s past is already stained by a serious case of fraud in MMR vaccine testing. The case stemmed from the accusations of Stephen A. Krahling and Joan A. Wlochowski, two former Merck scientists who were responsible for running the safety and effectiveness tests for the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (MMR). The virologists filed a qui tam suit in 2010 when they found that the results of these clinical tests were manipulated to maintain market share on the U.S. MMR vaccines. 

According to the accusations of the scientists, the MMR vaccine was less effective than the purported 95% level, and the corporation’s senior management oversaw a sham testing program to conceal its true efficacy. The whistleblower litigation was unsealed in 2012 and described how the two Merck employees were threatened with jail if they decided to alert the FDA about the fraud.

Plaintiffs’ Principal Accusations

Many seniors who were injected with a dose of Zostavax later suffered from many serious side effects or contracted shingles. According to the disputes they filed in many state and federal courts, Merck & Co. lured them into believing that the vaccine was safer than it really was. Their attorneys allege that the Defendants never adequately warned the public about the severe health risks, were negligent in designing and testing a potentially defective product, and unjustly enriched themselves with a misleading marketing campaign.

The pharmaceutical companies only focused on the drug’s safety and benefits, and never thoroughly explained its potential side effects, including the risk of contracting chickenpox or suffer from blindness and nerve damage. Plaintiffs are trying to hold the drugmakers liable for all the damage they suffered and receive a just financial compensation. If you received a shingles vaccination and suffered any serious medical complications or contracted the disease itself, you should consider taking legal action.

Contact our skilled vaccine lawyers today to receive a free legal consultation with no obligation.