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Lawsuit Alleges Acute Retinal Hemorrhage Resulted From Shingles Shot Zostavax

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A Louisiana woman indicates she suffered severe bleeding in her eye, known as a retinal hemorrhage, due to side effects of the shingles shot Zostavax, indicating that Merck has failed to warn consumers and the medical community about problems resulting from the live virus contained in the widely used injection.

The complaint (PDF) filed by Joann Howard on May 10, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, joining a growing number of similar claims filed over problems with the shingles vaccine.

Howard indicates that she was inoculated with Zostavax in June 2017, for the prevention of shingles. However, shortly after receiving the injection, she suffered a retinal hemorrhage of her right eye, and also developed a shingles outbreak under her breasts and on her back, which the vaccine was supposed to prevent. As a result of the shingles shot, Howard indicates that she has now been left with serious, permanent and incurable injuries as a result of the vaccine shot.

“Plaintiffs physicians and/or healthcare providers used and administered the Zostavax vaccine for the purpose intended by Merck, and in a manner normally intended to be used and administered, namely for vaccination against shingles (herpes zoster),” according to the lawsuit. “Merck had a duty to design, create, and manufacture products that were reasonably safe and not unreasonably dangerous for their normal, common, and intended use. Merck’s product was not reasonably fit, suitable, or safe for its anticipated use, and safer, reasonable alternative designs existed and could have been utilized. Reasonably prudent manufacturers would not have placed the product in the stream of commerce with knowledge ofthese design flaws.”

Zostavax was introduced in May 2006, as a single dose vaccine for prevention of shingles among individuals over the age of 50, and amid aggressive marketing it quickly grew to become a part of standard recommended care for nearly all older Americans. However, an alarming number of problems from the Zostavax vaccine have been reported where users developed a shingles outbreak or suffered other auto-immune disorders caused by the use of live-virus that was not sufficiently weakened.

Howard’s lawsuit indicates that Merck knew or should have known about the risk of Zostavax reactivating latent varicella zoster virus (VZV), which causes shingles, as far back as 2000, when a study warned that under-attenuated live VZV could not only cause shingles, but make it worse.

“Under-attenuated live virus creates an increased risk of developing the disease the vaccine was to prevent,” the lawsuit states. “Once injected, attenuated live virus has been shown to recombine into more virulent strains causing disease.”

Hundreds of Zostavax shingles shot lawsuits are now being pursued nationwide. Given similar questions of fact and law raised in the complaints, the federal litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings as part of a federal MDL, or multi-district litigation.

As lawyers continue to investigate and file additional claims on behalf of people who have experienced problems from Zostavax, the size of the litigation is expected to continue to grow over the coming months and years. If Merck fails to reach Zostavax settlements or another resolution for the claims following bellwether trials, each individual lawsuit may eventually be remanded back to different U.S. District courts nationwide for separate trial dates in the future.

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