Zostavax is unique because it is only approved for adults over 50 years old. Because it is not a routine childhood immunization, people who are injured do not have to go through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) to seek compensation.
The first lawsuit was filed in February by a woman from Reno, Nevada who developed headache, dizziness, and blurry vision within 24 hours of receiving the vaccine, which resulted in permanent vision loss.
Most of the lawsuits have been filed in in Pennsylvania, with Judge Denis Cohen presiding over the state court litigation and Judge Harvey Bartle III overseeing Zostavax lawsuits in federal court.
Lawyers say “thousands of complaints” are on the way. There are a wide range of injuries associated with Zostavax:
From contracting shingles as a result of the vaccine all the way to serious personal injuries such as blindness in one eye, individuals who have serious paralysis in their extremities, brain damage, all the way to death.”
Lawyers say Merck downplayed the risk of side effects and death. In response, Merck said it “stands behind the demonstrated safety and efficacy of Zostavax,” a drug that generated $749 million in 2016.
Shingles (herpes zoster) is a painful skin rash that is caused by re-activation of the chickenpox virus. About one in three adults in the United States develop shingles. The rash goes away in a few weeks, but in about 20% of people, it causes nerve damage and chronic pain.
Zostavax is a live virus vaccine, with about 14-times more virus than the Varivax chickenpox vaccine for children. The virus is weakened or “attenuated,” but it sometimes causes severe infections or shingles. This is especially likely to occur if the virus is not weakened enough.
Complications from shingles may include scarring, skin infections, Post-Herpetic Neuralgia, chronic pain, nerve damage, pneumonia, encephalitis, visual loss, hearing loss, paralysis, and even death. Health officials in Australia recently warned against giving Zostavax in sick patients after a person died.