The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates 1 million or more shingles cases occur each year in the U.S. alone. People of any age are at risk for developing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), but the risk increases as we age.
Since 2006, the vaccine of choice for those aged 60 or older has been Zostavax, developed by Merck & Co., but that’s no longer the case. Lower effectiveness rates over time, as well as significant side effects, have resulted in Zostavax lawsuits that have helped remove the vaccine from the U.S. market.
Read the facts and frequently asked questions about this dangerous shingles vaccine, and where to turn if you’ve been harmed by Zostavax.
5 Fast Zostavax Facts
- What is Zostavax? Zostavax is a single-dose vaccine injected under the skin originally recommended for adults 50 and older to prevent shingles and PHN. The vaccine contains a live, weakened chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus) that is supposed to work by helping your immune system protect you from getting shingles and suffering from the resulting nerve pain.
- Why is Zostavax No Longer Recommended? Though no vaccine is 100 percent effective, the problem with Zostavax, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), is it only reduces the risk of developing shingles by 51 percent and PHN by 67 percent. In FDA studies of people 60 years and older, the vaccine was most effective with those between ages 60-69. The vaccine’s effectiveness declined with participants’ age, 41 percent for the 70-79 age group and 18 percent for those aged 80 and older. For people of any age with compromised immune systems due to AIDS, cancer, or other health issues, Zostavax is dangerous. The vaccine was also shown to not treat PHN.
- What Are the Legal Issues Surrounding Zostavax? At present, multidistrict litigation is being waged against Merck. The outcome of these bellwether Zostavax shingles lawsuits will have a significant effect on the way other cases will be negotiated or tried in court. Plaintiffs in these cases:
- Allege they suffered severe reactions after being vaccinated
- Argue Merck knew about the side effects but failed to warn the public
- Say they may have chosen to remain unvaccinated had they known the side effects
Plaintiffs also note that between 2006 and 2015, more than 1,000 reports were made to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) about Zostavax to no avail.
- What Are the Common Side Effects of Zostavax? Drugs.com reports a number of known side effects of Zostavax. The most common overall adverse effects were:
- Injection site reactions
Common local side effects include:
- Injection site pain
- Injection site erythema
- Injection site swelling
- Injection site rash
- Injection site urticaria
- Transient injection site lymphadenopathy
The most common nervous system side effect other than headache is asthenia.
- What Are Other Side Effects of Zostavax? Other common side effects by area, from common to extreme are:
- Cardiovascular: Congestive heart failure or pulmonary edema
- Respiratory: Respiratory infection, flu syndrome, rhinitis, respiratory disorder, with asthma exacerbation being very rare
- Gastrointestinal: Diarrhea and nausea
- Dermatologic: Skin disorder and rash, with non-injection site varicella-type rash and zoster-like rash being very rare
- Musculoskeletal: Extremity pain, arthralgia, and myalgia, with polymyalgia rheumatica being very rare
- Hypersensitivity: Anaphylactic reactions are very rare
- Immunologic: Varicella (vaccine strain of herpes zoster) is very rare
- Hematologic: Lymphadenopathy
- Ocular: Necrotizing retinitis in patients on immunosuppressive therapy
How We Help Zostavax Victims
Seek justice with the help of our experienced attorneys. Our Dallas, Texas, prescription drug law firm has battled corporate giants on behalf of individuals like you for 20 years, aggressively fighting to hold companies responsible for dangerous products. If you or a loved one suffered catastrophic injury or death caused by Zostavax, we can help.