The lawsuit was filed by Jorja Bentley, a woman from Nevada who received the Zostavax vaccine in November 2014. Within 24 hours, she developed a headache, dizziness, and blurred vision. She continues to suffer injuries to her right eye and high blood pressure.

Her lawyers accuse Merck & Co. of putting profits above public safety by downplaying the risk of Zostavax causing viral infections and other devastating complications.

Zostavax is a vaccine that was approved in 2006 to prevent shingles in adults over 60 years old. It is essentially the same shot as Merck’s Varivax chickenpox vaccine for children, but Zostavax is about 14-times stronger than Varivax.

Even so, Zostavax only works in about 50% of patients. In clinical trials, shingles occurred in 1.7% of Zostavax patients, vs. 3.3% of un-vaccinated adults over 60.

The other problem is that Zostavax contains a live virus. The virus is weakened, but it can still trigger major infections instead of a mild immune response. In 2014, the FDA ordered Merck to add “shingles” to the list of Zostavax side effects, and strengthen warnings about “infections and infestations” with the vaccine’s virus.

Most people are surprised to learn that Zostavax can cause shingles or chickenpox, the exact same diseases it is supposed to prevent. The risk is far lower than getting shingles if you had chickenpox as a child, but infections can be devastating — especially in older adults.

Progression of shingles. A cluster of small bumps (1) turns into blisters (2) that resemble chickenpox lesions. The blisters fill with pus, break open (3), crust over (4), and finally disappear. This process takes four to five weeks. A painful condition called post-herpetic neuralgia can sometimes occur. This condition is thought to be caused by damage to the nerves (5), and can last from weeks to years after the rash disappears.

Shingles is caused by the herpes zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox (varicella).

When a child gets chickenpox or the vaccine, the virus stays in their body forever. After many years, the virus re-activates in about 33% of patients and causes shingles.

Shingles is an excruciatingly painful skin rash with blisters. The rash clears up in 2-3 weeks, but about 20% of patients suffer chronic pain due to Post-Herpetic Neuralgia.

Other complications include blindness, deafness, brain damage, and death. Studies also show a doubled increased risk of heart attack and stroke in the first few weeks after an outbreak.

The lawsuit was filed on February 22, 2017 in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas — Jorja Bentley v. Merck & Co., Inc. et al.Case No. 161004102.

Source: Merck Sued In Philly Over Shingles Vaccine Injuries

Posted by Elizabeth Bradley

Lifelong consumer advocate. Pop culture nerd. Grammar evangelist. Wannabe organizer. Travel addict. Zombie fan.


  1. Tammy Martino March 6, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    There is an attorney group going after zostavax for failure to warn about shingles activation after the shot. Doctors are not required to provide informed consent for any vaccine. Vaccine manufacturers may not be sued, even when their vaccines cause autoimmune disease, seizures, death, etc. No liability means unsafe vaccines. Vaccines are largely ineffective, clearly unaafe, and regularly contaminated.

    1. Tammy, thank you for your comment. You are correct that vaccine manufacturers can’t be sued over childhood vaccines (DTaP, MMRV, etc.). However, lawsuits CAN be filed for Zostavax injuries because the shingles vaccine is only for adults.

  2. I had the shingles vaccine about two year’s ago. I got the shingles four weeks ago on my right side of my head and neck.. I was diagnosed with lupus a few months ago. I thought it was Lupus and didn’t go to the ER until the headaches became unbearable. What a shock to find out I have shingles. The pain is unbearable when the nerves go out of controle . Brings me to my knees. My daughter had muscle relaxers that helped make the pain more in controle. My doctor gave me oxycodine for pain. I don’t leave the house as I never know when the nerve pain will hit and give me unbearable pain. Hope I will clear up soon. It would be nice if we were educated when we get the Shingles Shot as to what it can do to our immunity. Mine is shot.

  3. i also got the vaccine after i had gotten the shingles once had to wait over a year to get it and then i got the shingles again the pain was so bad with nerves affected i fell off a step ladder my vision and hearing and immunity has been affected i would not wish shingles off on my worst enemy if i had one it will bring anyone to their knees who do i call

  4. I received the shingles vaccine in 2012 when I turned 60. I am now 66, and in February 2018 I went to the eye doctor for a red left eye, with swelling and a rash on the left side of my face. I was prescribed steroid eye drops and it cleared up. In June 2018 my left eye became red again and was sore. I returned to the eye doctor and was diagnosed with shingles. For the past four months I have been on Acyclovir with lots of steroid drops and a bandaid contact for a short time. At the end of August (still seeing the eye doctor), my eye became very painful and my vision in my left eye changed and became very hazy. It was so painful I considered going to the ER. I went back to the eye doctor that day and was given three different pressure drops to reduce the pressure (mine measured 39….22 and under is acceptable). For the last six weeks, I have been seeing a cornea specialist who has informed me the nerves surrounding the cornea are damaged, and the haze I have with my left eye may or may not improve. In addition, my left eye no longer makes tears as it did before because of the nerve damage, so I have to use preservative free drops every hour. Everything is more difficult now, from computer work to reading to driving. I always have to wear a hat now when being in the sun as my left eye is extremely very sensitive to bright lights. Elaine

    1. Please speak with your doctor and contact a lawyer at Schmidt & Clark, LLP –

  5. Can you please up date us on where this lawsuit stands?

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