Zostavax Shingles Vaccine Lawsuit

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Zostavax Multidistrict Litigation Forms in Philadelphia

As of Aug. 15, 2018, there were 98 lawsuits involving the Zostavax vaccine pending in Pennsylvania’s Eastern District. These lawsuits were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation, or MDL, by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in summer 2018. Since then, dozens more lawsuits have been filed as part of the litigation.

Were you given the Zostavax shingles vaccine and experienced adverse reactions following the vaccination?

If you've experienced side effects following the Zoster Vaccine "Zostavax", you could qualify for compensation.

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At the time these cases were consolidated before Senior District Judge Harvey Bartle III, there were roughly 57 cases involving 117 individuals who say they developed shingles after receiving Zostavax.

Zostavax has been on the market since 2006, and was first approved to prevent shingle in people aged 60 or older. It was later approved for people aged 50 and older. There are potentially thousands of people who received the Zostavax vaccine and possibly developed shingles afterward.

Zostavax lawsuits accuse the maker of the vaccine, Merck, of manufacturing a defective product and failing to warn about its potential risks. The company maintains that cases of shingles viruses following Zostavax are a result of “natural reactivation” and are unrelated to the vaccine.

It is up now to the courts to decide.

Shingles is a painful rash that occurs in adults who have had the chickenpox. Shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus and can happen without warning. It is characterized by a painful, itchy rash with shooting pain, typically on one side of the body.

Adults who have had the chickenpox often want to defend themselves against shingles and opt to get vaccinated for the condition. Zostavax was the first vaccine designed to prevent shingles, but when people wound up with shingles even after getting vaccinated—or worse, developed more severe complications—Zostavax manufacturer Merck found itself defending against dozens of lawsuits.

Zostavax Lawsuits

If you or a loved one received the Zostavax vaccine and later developed shingles or other serious complications, you may be entitled to financial compensation. There may be significant payouts or cash settlements to those affected by the drug.

The experienced lawyers and attorneys at Schmidt National Law Group are ready to help you fight for compensation for damages suffered at the hands of pharmaceutical companies that put profit over the health of their patients. Call Schmidt National Law Group today at 1-800-631-5656 to see if you qualify for a Zostavax Lawsuit, or visit nationalinjuryadvocates.com to file a claim now.

Why Multidistrict Litigation?

MDLs help speed up the litigation process by bringing similar lawsuits together in one court. Attorneys on both sides are able to collaborate during the discovery process, which saves time and resources. A few cases are usually picked to be tried first. These are called bellwether trials. Bellwether trials give attorneys the chance to test out legal theories before a jury and can help inform settlement negotiations.

Verdicts or settlements awarded in an MDL are handed down individually in each case. This means global settlements are not split equally among all plaintiffs, like in a class action lawsuit. Instead, they are distributed among plaintiffs on a case by case basis and are often determined by the extent of the plaintiffs’ injuries.

What is Zostavax?

Zostavax is a vaccine used to prevent shingles in adults age 50 and older. It was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006 for people aged 60 and older, but its use was later expanded to treat people aged 50 and older. Manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Merck, Zostavax is typically given as a one-dose shot in a doctor’s office or pharmacy.

According to the CDC, Zostavax is not the preferred shingles vaccine. Instead, the CDC recommends Shingrix (recombinant zoster vaccine) over Zostavax (zoster vaccine live) for adults aged 60 years or older.

Zostavax contains a weakened chickenpox virus and works by helping the immune system protect against getting shingles. However, Zostavax is only shown to be about 51 percent effective. This means for about half the people who get Zostavax, the vaccine doesn’t work. Its competitor Shingrix, on the other hand, has been shown to be up to 91 percent effective.

While shingles is very rarely a life-threatening condition, it can lead to potential complications including postherpetic neuralgia—severe pain where the shingles rash had developed. The pain can be debilitating and may last several weeks to months, or even years.

Zostavax is more effective in reducing the risk for PHN than the shingles virus, with clinical trials showing the vaccine reduced the risk by about 67 percent. Shingrix, the CDC’s preferred vaccine over Zostavax, was still more effective, however, reducing the risk of PHN by over 90 percent.  

Side Effects of Zostavax

There are several possible side effects of Zostavax, the most common of which occur near the injection site. It is possible to experience redness, pain, itching, swelling, a hard lump, warmth, or bruising at the injection site, as well as headache.

Other reported side effects include:

  • Allergic reactions that may be serious and may include difficulty in breathing or swallowing
  • Chickenpox
  • Fever
  • Hives at the injection site
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Rash
  • Rash at the injection site
  • Shingles
  • Swollen glands near the injection site (may last a few days to a few weeks)

Some people also develop a mild, chickenpox-like rash near the injection site, which should be covered until it disappears as a precaution. There is no record of anyone getting chickenpox from someone who got the shingles vaccine so it is safe to be around infants and young children, as well as pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

Shingles After the Vaccine

It is possible for people to develop the very condition Zostavax was supposed to prevent after receiving the vaccine: shingles. While no medicine is ever 100 percent effective, Zostavax is only 51 percent effective, according to clinical trials. That’s like flipping a coin with your health on the line.

What is Shingles?

Shingles is caused by the same virus as the chickenpox. When children (or adults) get the chickenpox, it presents as itchy red blisters that often start on the back, chest, and face and spread to the rest of the body.  

After the rash disappears, the virus that caused it retreats back into the body and lies dormant in nerve tissues near the spinal cord and brain. The virus may hide out there forever, or it may be reactivated in adulthood. That reactivation is what causes shingles to develop.

Shingles is a painful, itchy rash that occurs when the chickenpox virus is awakened and travels along nerve fibers to the skin. Shingles often occurs on only one side of the body.

Doctors are unsure why the virus is sometime reactivated in adulthood. When the virus first presents as chickenpox, it is called varicella; when it presents later as shingles, it is called herpes zoster.

Complications of Shingles

Adults who develop shingles are also at risk for other complications. The most common complication of shingles is a postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN, a condition that causes severe pain where the shingles rash had been. PHN can cause pain even after the shingles rash has cleared up.

PHN can cause severe and debilitating pain that interferes with a person’s daily life. PHN usually resolves in a few weeks or months; however, in some cases, people can experience pain from PHN for many years.

Just like with shingles, a person’s risk for PHN increases with age: the older you are, the more likely you are to develop PHN and to have pain that lasts longer and is more severe. According to the CDC, roughly 10 to 13 percent of people who get shingles also get PHN.

Other serious but rare complications of shingles can occur:

  • Vision loss
  • Pneumonia
  • hearing problems
  • Blindness
  • Brain inflammation (encephalitis)
  • Death

Who is at Risk for Shingles?

Although it is unclear why the shingles virus is reactivated in some adults, certain populations may be more at risk for developing shingles than others. The older you get, the more your risk for shingles increases.

Weakened Immune System

Adults with a weakened immune system may be more likely to develop shingles than adults with healthy immune systems. This is because weakened immune systems might cause the virus to “wake up” after years of lying dormant.

If you had the chickenpox, you may be more likely to develop shingles later on if you:

  • Have a disease that lowers your body’s immune defenses, such as cancer or HIV
  • Are 50 years of age or older
  • Are under a lot of stress
  • Have had a physical trauma
  • Take long-term medications that can weaken your immune system, such as steroids

1 in 3 Adults Will Get Shingles

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1 in 3 adults in the United States will develop shingle in their lifetime. Each year, about 1 million cases of shingles is reported in the US.

Most people who get shingles will only have one outbreak in their lifetime. However, it is possible for some people to have two or three outbreaks.

Symptoms of Shingles

Shingles causes painful rashes to develop on one side of the face or body. In people with weakened immune systems, the rash may be more widespread. Before the rash develops, people often experience pain, itching, or tingling in the area where the rash will come in. This pain typically occurs about one to five days before the rash appears.

The shingles rash usually blisters over in about seven to 10 days, and clears completely within two to four weeks. Though most adults only experience one shingles outbreak, some people can experience several outbreaks over their lifetime.

In some cases, when the shingles rash develops on the face, it can affect the eye and cause a loss of vision.

According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of shingles are:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Upset stomach

Should you get the Shingles Vaccine?

The CDC recommends adults aged 60 years and older get vaccinated against shingles, as one in three adults will likely get shingles in their lifetime. Even if you don’t remember having the chickenpox, the CDC says you should still get vaccinated. Most adults over the age of 40 in the U.S. have had the chickenpox (about 99 percent)—even if they don’t remember having it. People who have had shingles already can also get vaccinated to prevent future outbreaks.

Who Should not get the Shingles Vaccine?

Some people should not get the shingles vaccine. Speak with your doctor or healthcare provider to see if the shingles vaccine is right for you.

Life-threatening Allergies

Anyone who has ever had a severe allergic reaction to the following should not get Zostavax or any other shingles vaccine:

  • Gelatin
  • Neomycin – an antibiotic
  • Any other component of the shingles vaccine

A person who is severely allergic to Zostavax would notice symptoms a few minutes to a few hours after receiving the vaccine. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness.

Weakened Immune System

People who have weakened immune systems because of certain diseases or drugs should not get the shingles vaccine:

  • HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system,
  • treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids,
  • cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy, or
  • cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma.

Shingles After Vaccination?

Some people may develop shingles after receiving Zostavax, even though it’s the very condition the vaccine is supposed to treat. With clinical trials showing the vaccine is only 51 percent effective, it’s no surprise shingles cases are still being reported in the US.

If you developed shingles or another serious complication after receiving the vaccine Zostavax, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Call the experienced attorneys at Schmidt National Law Group today at 1-800-631-5656 to see if you qualify for a Zostavax Lawsuit, or visit nationalinjuryadvocates.com to file a claim now.