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According to allegations raised in a recently filed product liability lawsuit, side effects of the shingles vaccine caused a Wisconsin woman to suffer hearing loss and tinnitus, indicating that the live-virus contained in the Zostavax injection was not sufficiently weakened, or “under-attenuated”.
The complaint (PDF) was filed earlier this month by Dorothy Saffold in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, indicating that Merck & Co. sold an unreasonably dangerous and defective vaccine, which may actually re-activate the dormant herpes zoster virus.
Zostavax was introduced in 2006, involving a single-dose injection that contains a live virus designed to vaccinate older adults against the development of shingles. However, the vaccine has been linked to a large number of reports involving severe complications, where individuals experienced more persistent shingles outbreaks, as well as other infections and auto-immune disorders, shortly after exposure to Zostavax.
The lawsuit indicates Saffold was inoculated with Zostavax in June 2016 to prevent shingles. However, shortly after the injection, she began suffering hearing loss and a ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus. She was eventually diagnosed with idiopathic hearing loss of the right ear. The lawsuit blames the side effects of Zostavax for causing Saffold’s hearing problems after she received the shingles vaccine.
“As a direct and proximate result of Merck’s defective Zostavax vaccine, plaintiff’s symptoms have resulted in physical limitations not present prior to using Merck’s product,” Saffold’s lawsuit states. “As a result of the manufacture, marketing, advertising, promotion, distribution andlor sale of Zostavax, Plaintiff sustained severe and permanent personal injuries. further, as a tragic consequence of Merck’s wrongful conduct, Plaintiff suffered serious, progressive, permanent, and incurable injuries, as well as significant conscious pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, physical impairment and injury.”
The complaint joins hundreds of other Zostavax vaccine lawsuits filed by individuals nationwide who experienced problems, including more severe shingles outbreaks and auto-immune disorders.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in the lawsuits over Zostavax, 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.