Shingles Vaccine Lawsuit Filed Over Bell’s Palsy Facial Paralysis from Zostavax

Shortly after receiving a single dose of Zostavax, side effects of the shingles vaccine allegedly caused a New Mexico man to suffer sudden and severe facial paralysis, known as Bell’s Palsy, according to a recently filed lawsuit against Merck.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Steve Ingoglia in the U.S. District Court for the District of Mexico on October 2, alleging that the Zostavax shingles vaccine was unreasonably dangerous for consumers, posing a risk of serious viral infections.

Zostavax was introduced by Merck in May 2016, as a single dose vaccine for prevention of shingles. It is a more potent version of the Merck chickenpox vaccine, Varivax, but reports soon emerged involving problems with users developing more severe shingles outbreaks and other infections, due to the “under-attenuated” live virus contained in the vaccine.

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Zostavax Lawsuits

Side effects of the shingles vaccine Zostavax may result in the development of a painful and persistent strain of shingles


Ingoglia indicates that he received a Zostavax shingles vaccine shot in October 2015, at a local Wal-Mart Pharmacy as part of routine health maintenance. However, shortly after the injection, he was hospitalized due to right-sided facial paralysis, which he blamed on the shingles vaccine. He was subsequently diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, which can be a reaction to viral infections that causes one half of the face to droop. He also indicates that he has been left with hearing loss from Zostavax.

The case joins a growing number of Zostavax shingles vaccine lawsuits filed in courts nationwide, each raising similar allegations that Merck used a live strain of the varicella zoster virus (VZV) that was not weakened enough to prevent reactivation of the virus. Instead of the body developing the proper immune response, Ingoglia and other plaintiffs allege that the live virus combined with the old virus in some users.

“Since Zostavax’s introduction in 2006, vaccine adverse event reports (VAERs) appeared in significant numbers addressing various adverse effects, including, but not limited to, viral infection resulting in disease of the central nervous system, including acute disseminated encephalomyelitis and acute transverse myelitis,” according to the Ingoglia’s complaint. “Other than postherpetic neuralgia, shingles can lead to other serious complications, such as scarring, bacterial superinfection, allodynia, cranial and motor neuron palsies, pneumonia, encephalitis, visual impairment, hearing loss and death.”

Given similar questions of fact and law presented in cases filed throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided to centralize all Zostavax shingles cases before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit filed by Ingoglia will be consolidated with other federal complaints for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings, including potential bellwether trials to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation. However, following the MDL proceedings, if Merck fails to reach shingles vaccine settlements or otherwise resolve the lawsuits, each case may ultimately be returned back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for individual trials in the future.


  • ElizabethOctober 10, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    I received the Shingles vaccine and had shingles a short time later. I suffered vision loss, sores in my scalp, hair loss, and still have pain on one side of my face.

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