The Zostavax lawsuits claim drug manufacturer Merck failed to warn patients and their doctors that the Zostavax vaccine, intended to prevent shingles, can actually cause shingles.
We are no longer accepting Zostavax cases.
What Do We Know About the Zostavax Lawsuits
Zostavax is one of two zoster vaccines currently available (the other is Shingrix, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline). Zostavax was the first such vaccine to be available in the U.S. when it gained FDA approval in 2006. At that time, the Journal of the American Medical Society reported that Zostavax reduced the incidence of shingles by half, based on a study of 38,000 older adults who were given the vaccine.
Like all vaccines, Zostavax contains a live, weakened form of the virus it is intended to guard against – in this case, varicella zoster, the virus responsible for chicken pox as well as shingles. The purpose is to “alert” the immune system so that it can more effectively suppress the virus present in the patient's body. However, those whose conditions were made worse after getting the vaccine claim that the warning label for Zostavax failed to adequaly address that Zostavax could actually cause shingles.
There is also evidence to indicate that Zostavax can be fatal. Based on reports to the FDA Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, there were over 1,100 serious reactions to the vaccine – more than 8 percent of which caused the patient's death.
Zostavax has been found to cause or exacerbate shingles when it was intended to prevent patients from getting it.
In 2014, the FDA updated the Zostavax warning label, adding shingles as one of the possible side effects. In 2017, the CDC began recommending that doctors use Shingrix instead of Zostavax.
Complications and Side Effects Related to Zostavax
Shingles is one of the potential side effects from Zostavax. Shingles is a painful skin rash similar to chickenpox that can result in serious nerve damage (encephalitis, meningitis, and Guillen-Barre Syndrome) and put patients at risk for stroke, heart failure, and pneumonia.
While almost anyone who receives Zostavax can develop shingles or other serious side effects, the following individuals are at particular risk and should never take the vaccine:
- Patients who are allergic to Zostavax ingredients, including gelatin and neomycin;
- Those with compromised immune systems due to HIV, steroid treatments, bone cancer, or lymphoma or are receiving radiation treatments or chemotherapy for cancer; and
- Women who are pregnant or plan to conceive.
Patients who are vaccinated with Zostavax may also experience one or more of the following injuries:
- necrotizing retinitis
- hematoma (unusual bruising and swelling)
- itchiness (pruritis)
- muscle and joint pain
- pulmonary edema (fluid buildup around the lungs)
Compensation in Zostavax Lawsuits
If you contracted shingles after being vaccinated by Zostavax, then you might be entitled to the following types of damages:
- Past and future medical expenses that result from the injuries.
- Past and future pain and suffering (physical and mental) caused by the injuries and the treatment and recovery process.
- Past and future wage loss.
- Past and future loss of earning capacity.
- Past and future loss of enjoyment of life.
- Punitive damages, if appropriate.
Zostavax Lawsuit Settlements
In August 2018, an MDL was established for Zostavax in federal court in Pennsylvania. As of October 2021, more than 2,000 lawsuits were pending in the MDL.
The creation of an MDL is the first step in the litigation process that starts the settlement negotiations. Once the MDL has been formed, discovery of the facts and trials can begin, which then leads to serious settlement discussions.
What Do We Know About Shingles
Chickenpox is a common childhood illness. Studies show that more than 99% of Americans 40 years and older have had chickenpox, even if they don’t remember having the disease.
After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus becomes dormant and remains within the body's nerve cells. In adult life, this virus can become active and cause shingles. Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that approximately one-third of the population will suffer from shingles at some point.
The first symptom of shingles is a painful tingling or burning sensation at a specific location on the skin. A few days later, a rash may appear, and blistering can follow. An outbreak can last for up to a month. However, in approximately 20 percent of cases, the patient can experience nerve pain for several months or years.
Although shingles primarily affects people 60 and older, the virus can become active again in younger individuals with compromised immune systems. Those who contracted chickenpox prior to the age of 18 months are also at elevated risk for shingles.