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You’re at risk for getting shingles if you had the chickenpox as a child or adult. Almost 1 in 3 adults in the United States will get shingles in their lifetime. Shingles is a painful, itchy rash with shooting pain. It is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, and it can happen without warning. Sometimes, it only affects one side of the body.

Shingles is an unpredictable condition and can flare up without warning. For this reason, people often get vaccinated to decrease their chances of the virus reactivating. The first shingles vaccine to gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was Zostavax. Although Zostavax was approved to prevent shingles in adults, many people who got the vaccine still ended up with shingles, or worse, they suffered more severe complications. The manufacturer of Zostavax, Merck, is now facing dozens of lawsuits that accuse the company of designing a defective drug.

History of Zostavax Lawsuits

The FDA first approved Zostavax in 2006. The vaccine was approved to prevent shingles in adults 60 years of age or older and, later, in adults 50 years of age or older. Thousands of people in the US have received the Zostavax vaccine since it came to market more than a decade ago. Some of those people have gone on to file lawsuits against the manufacturer after they experienced adverse side effects.

Over one hundred Zostavax lawsuits have been filed in federal court and consolidated in multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. These lawsuits allege pharmaceutical giant Merck manufactured a defective product and failed to warn about its risks. Today, Zostavax lawsuits continue to be filed across the country in state and federal courts.

If you or someone you love received Zostavax and then developed shingles or another serious complication, you may be entitled to financial compensation. The experienced attorneys at KBA Attorneys can help you through the legal process if you qualify for a claim.

Shingles and the Zostavax Vaccine

Zostavax, zoster vaccine live, is approved to protect adults ages 50 and older from the shingles virus. The vaccine is manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Merck and is typically administered in a doctor’s office or pharmacy. Zostavax is designed to boost the immune system and protect against herpes zoster, also known as shingles. The vaccine is made up of a weakened strain of the chickenpox virus, which means adults receiving the vaccine are actually getting injected with a weak dose of the chickenpox.

The chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus) is the same virus that causes shingles. After a person gets the chickenpox, the virus retreats into the body and lies dormant for the next several years, sometimes for the person’s entire lifetime. The virus will reactivate years later and cause shingles in about 30 percent of adults in the US.

Healthcare providers are unsure why the virus sometimes reactivates in adulthood. Shingles is a painful, itchy rash that usually presents on only one side of the body. Because shingles are painful and unpredictable, many people choose to get vaccinated against the virus.

Although it was the first shingles vaccine approved by the FDA, Zostavax is not the preferred vaccine of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, Zostavax shingles vaccine is only about 51 percent effective in protecting against shingles.

The CDC does not recommend Zostavax as the number one shingles vaccine; instead, the agency prefers a newer vaccine called Shingrix. Shingrix has been shown to be up to 91 percent effective, compared to Zostavax, which is only about 51 percent effective.

Effectiveness is essential because although shingles aren’t usually life-threatening, the virus can cause potentially dangerous complications. One of these complications is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is severe pain where the shingles rash had developed. PHN can cause debilitating pain that can last for several weeks to months, potentially even years.

Zostavax has been shown to protect against PHN, and clinical trials have demonstrated the vaccine can reduce the risk of PHN by about 67 percent. Shingrix still protects against PHN better than Zostavax though, reducing the risk by over 90 percent.

Problems Caused by Shingles

Shingles can cause other severe complications in addition to PHN, including:

  • Vision Loss
  • Pneumonia
  • Hearing Loss
  • Blindness
  • Brain Damage
  • Inflammation
  • Death

People with a weakened immune system or other risk factors might be at an increased risk for getting shingles. You may be more likely to develop shingles if you had the chickenpox and:

  • You Have A Disease The Lowers Your Body’s Immune Defenses Like HIV Or Cancer
  • You Are 50 Years Of Age Or Older
  • You Are Under A Lot Of Stress
  • You Have Had Physical Trauma
  • You Are Taking Long-Term Medications That Can Weaken Your Immune System Such As Steroids

Zostavax Side Effects

There are many possible side effects associated with the Zostavax vaccine. The most common of these occur near the injections site. These side effects may include redness, pain, swelling, a hard lump, warmth, bruising, and headache.

Other potential Zostavax side effects include:

  • Allergic Reactions Which Can Be Severe And May Cause Difficulty Breathing Or Swallowing
  • Chickenpox
  • Fever
  • Hives At The Injection Site
  • Joint Pain
  • Muscle Pain
  • Nausea
  • Rash, Including At The Injection Site
  • Shingles
  • Swollen Glands Near The Injection Site That Can Last A Few Days To A Few Weeks

Some individuals may experience a mild, chickenpox-like rash near the injection site after getting Zostavax. If this happens, the rash should be covered until it goes away. There are no recorded incidents of people getting chickenpox from someone who got a shingles vaccine; is it safe to be around infants, young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems after receiving the shingles vaccine. Anyone who develops one or more of these potential side effects of Zostavax should seek medical advice and consult a doctor about their symptoms.

Contact us about the potential for a Zostavax lawsuit.