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According to allegations raised in a product liability lawsuit filed this week against Merck, inoculation with the Zostavax shingles vaccine not only failed to prevent the ailment as it was supposed to, but actually a caused a Florida man to develop a more severe and persistent outbreak of shingles.
David Fontaine filed a complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on November 11, indicating that the widely used shingles vaccine contained a version of the live virus that was “under-attenuated” and actually increases the risk of severe zoster infections.
Fontain indicates that he was inoculated with the Zostavax vaccine at a Walgreen’s Pharmacy in August 2016, which was designed to provide permanent protection against shingles and other herpes zoster-related injuries. However, later that same month, he developed shingles, which the lawsuit blames on the vaccine’s use of a live herpes zoster virus, which was not sufficiently weakened to prevent reactivation of the dormant virus that remains for years after chickenpox.
“At the time of the Plaintiff’s vaccination, Plaintiff’s healthcare provider(s) who recommended and/or prescribed the Zostavax vaccine to Plaintiff and a healthcare provider at Walgreens Pharmacy in Deltona, Florida, relied on the product package insert, prescribing information, and/or warning label affixed to the Zostavax vaccine to ensure Plaintiff’s healthcare providers that they were apprised of all risks associated with the Zostavax vaccine, which induced Plaintiff’s healthcare providers to prescribe, recommend, and/or administer the Zostavax vaccine to Plaintiff,” Fontaine’s lawsuit states.
The case joins a growing number of similar Zostavax lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system, which are currently centralized before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings before Judge Bartle, it is expected that a small group of representative cases will be selected for early “bellwether” trials to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if Merck fails to negotiate Zostavax inoculation settlements for individuals who have been left with problems, or otherwise resolve the litigation, each individual case may eventually be remanded back to the federal district court where it originated for a separate trial date in the future.