Zostavax Shingles Vaccine Lawsuit

Doctor treating rashA new product liability lawsuit was filed in New Jersey involving the ZOSTAVAX vaccine, which is intended for the prevention of herpes zoster which is more commonly known as the shingles virus. This lawsuit, filed on behalf of 22 plaintiffs, alleges that this Merck vaccine was unsafe for patients.

The Shingles Virus

The herpes zoster virus is the same virus that, in young people, causes chickenpox. When the virus triggers an episode of chickenpox, it is called varicella. When the virus triggers an episode of shingles, the virus is called zoster. For short, the virus is known as varicella zoster virus or VZV. The incidence of shingles is highest among people who are in their fifties and older, impacting 200,000 healthy people between the ages of 50 and 59 every year in the United States.

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After getting chickenpox, usually as a child, the virus lies dormant in little groups of nerve cells attached to sensory nerves along the spine, and sometimes inside the head. Most of us live with this and nothing happens. But for reasons that science does not yet fully understand, this virus can return in the form of shingles.

The New Jersey Lawsuit

This lawsuit filed in New Jersey a few weeks ago alleges that all 22 victims took Zostavax vaccine to avoid shingles, but instead developed a recurring strain of herpes zoster, which is more difficult to treat than usual.

So what happened? Like most vaccines, Zostavax is live form of the virus. The hope with vaccines is that a weakened form of the virus will active like a training course for the immune system. Zostavax is intended to provide just enough to keep the virus dormant and prevent a shingles outbreak. So the vaccine prepares the body to fight shingles without exposing it a powerful enough form of the disease that causes symptoms.

Obviously, vaccines require a careful balancing act. There is a risk that a live virus vaccine is that it is not weakened enough to prevent exposing the patient to the very disease they were seeking to avoid. Conversely, if the virus is too weak to activate the immune system, there is an increased risk of developing the disease the vaccine is intended to prevent. Of course, we pay the pharmaceutical companies a gazillion dollars to get this balance right.

This Zostavax vaccine shingles lawsuit claims that Merck used got this balance wrong. In this case, the strain of the varicella zoster virus was not weakened enough to prevent reactivation of the virus. So patients endured a combination between the live virus combined with the old virus, creating an even more powerful stand of the shingles virus. This lawsuit alleges Merck failed to exercise reasonable care in the design, labeling, testing, formulation, manufacture, sale, marketing and distribution of Zostavax because Merck knew, or should have known, that its product caused a shingles infection.

In the last two years, here has been over 1,000 reports to the FDA of serious adverse event reports regarding the zoster vaccine, including reports of 36 deaths. The injuries include cardiovascular injury, joint and muscle pain, rashes, pneumonia, vision and hearing loss, cellulitis, lymph node disease, actinic keratosis, severe cutaneous disease, post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) weakness, numbness, facial paralysis, brain inflammation (encephalitis), and, tragically, death.

This lawsuit comes on the heels of a similar suit filed on behalf of 15 victims in New Jersey state court in July. Why is New Jersey the venue for these cases? Lawsuits against Merck are often filed in state court in New Jersey because Merck is incorporated in New Jersey, allowing plaintiffs to avoid federal court.

Getting a Zostavax Lawyer

If you or someone you care for has been harmed from Merck's Zostavax vaccine, our class action attorneys would like to talk to you. Please contact us today by calling 800-553-8082 or get a FREE online case evaluation.

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