Lawsuit Filed Over Hearing Loss, Other Problems After Shingles Vaccine

An Ohio man says the side effects of a shingles vaccine left him with severe and permanent hearing loss, vertigo and other problems, indicating the manufacturer has failed to adequately warn consumers and the medical community about the risks associated with a widely used vaccine among older Americans.

The complaint (PDF) was filed this week by Paul Barcus in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, indicating that Merck & Co. knew or should have known about the risks and reactions associated with their Zostavax shingles vaccine, yet failed to provide information about the signs, symptoms, scope or severity of the problems that may result from the injection.

Bracus indicates that he was inoculated with the vaccine for shingles in May 2016, which contains a live version of the virus that was intended to protect against future development of the condition. However, a number of problems with the shingles vaccine have been reported, where the live virus vaccine may reactivated dormant herpes zoster virus in the body, resulting in severe and persistent shingles outbreaks and other auto-immune reactions.

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Shortly after he was injected with the shingles vaccine, Bracus indicates that he began to suffer ear fullness, dull aching, ringing in the ears and dizziness. He was eventually diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss in his right ear, with unrestricting hearing of contralateral ear and vertigo, claiming that the injuries are permanent in nature.

“Merck failed to exercise due care in the labeling of Zostavax and failed to issue to consumers and/or their healthcare providers adequate warnings as to the risk of serious bodily injury, including viral infection, resulting from its use,” the lawsuit states. “Merck continued to manufacture and market its product despite the knowledge, whether direct or ascertained with reasonable care, that Zostavax posed a serious risk of bodily harm to consumers.”

The complaint joins hundreds of other shingles vaccine lawsuits being pursued against Merck throughout the U.S. court system; each raising similar allegations that individuals suffered painful and debilitating injuries that may have been avoided if the vaccine were not administered, or a different design had been used that did not feature a live-virus.

Given similar questions of fact and law raised in shingles vaccine lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, the 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 the coordinated litigation, Judge Bartle has scheduled a series of early “bellwether” trials, which are designed to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the claims. However, if Merck fails to reach shingles vaccine settlements or another resolution for the litigation, 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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