Zostavax Shingles Vaccine Cited in Two Pennsylvania Lawsuits

Published on March 1, 2017 by Sandy Liebhard

Two Zostavax lawsuits recently filed in the state of Pennsylvania accuse Merck & Co. of concealing the serious risks allegedly associated with the shingles vaccine. While the cases appear to be the first of their kind, plaintiffs’ attorneys are predicting that the litigation surrounding Zostavax will grow.

Pennsylvania’s first Zostavax case was filed in the U .S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, last November. According to a report from the Pennsylvania Record, the complaint’s lead Plaintiff claims that he experienced pain in the right side of his body, as well as fatigue and myalgia, as a result of side effects associated with the Zostavax vaccine. (Case No. 2:16-cv-04686-HB)

The second filing came just last week in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. According to Law360.com, a Nevada woman claims that Zostavax caused her to suffer high blood pressure, an eye injury and other complications. She also alleges that reports have implicated Zostavax in viral infections that can cause diseases of the central nervous system. (Case No. 161004102)

“Despite this information and the potential correlation between being administered the Zostavax vaccine and developing an infection within a relatively short period of time, leading to the development of shingles or varicella-zoster virus pneumonia, Merck failed to properly address and provide this information both to patients and the medical providers prescribing the vaccine,” her complaint states.

Documentation provided to the Plaintiff at the time of her vaccination only noted the possibility of rash and itching at the injection site.

An attorney representing the woman told Law360.com that he anticipates additional filings in the future. He further asserted that Zostavax is either not effective, or has the potential to cause shingles, eye injuries, and other injuries.

The Zostavax Vaccine

Zostavax was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006, and is the only shingles vaccine cleared for use in this country. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that most seniors over the age of 60 receive Zostavax, it has been shown to reduce the risk of shingles by just 51%.

Zostavax contains a weakened form live varicella zoster virus, which causes both chicken pox and shingles. Exposure to the virus via the vaccine is supposed to trigger an immune response without actually causing shingles. However, in 2014, the Zostavax label was updated to include shingles as a possible side effect.

Just last year, mention of “Eye Disorders: necrotizing retinitis (patients on immunosuppressive therapy)” was added to the Zostavax label. That same year, a study presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology linked shingles vaccines to keratitis, a potentially-blinding inflammation of the eye’s cornea.

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