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Zostavax Lawsuit Filed Over Sixth Nerve Palsy Diagnosis, Other Vision Problems from Shingles Vaccine

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According to allegations raised in a recently filed product liability lawsuit, the controversial shingles vaccine Zostavax not only increases the risk that some users may develop the very condition it is supposed to prevent, but that side effects may leave some individuals with devastating vision problems, such as sixth nerve palsy and other other complications. 

In a complaint (PDF) filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on January 3, Leroy Crawley indicates that he started to experience problems involving his eyes and vision shortly after he was inoculated with the Zostavax vaccine, which is approved for prevention of shingles among older adults.

Zostavax is a live varicella zoster virus (VZV) vaccine, which was introduced by Merck in May 2006, as a single dose injection the prevention of shingles. It is a more potent version of the Merck chickenpox vaccine, Varivax, but it has been linked to problems where it actually causes users to experience longer and more painful shingles outbreaks, as well as other infections associated with an “under-attenuated” version of the live virus, which was allegedly not weak enough to prevent reactivation of dormant virus in the body.

Crawley indicates that he received a Zostavax injection in April 2017, alleging that Merck failed to provide adequate warnings and information about the potential side effects for users and the medical community.

“Within one (1) month after after receiving Defendants’ Zostavax vaccine, Plaintiff began experiencing sudden and severe headaches, intermittent shooting pain and tingling in his right eye and sudden horizontal bilateral diplopia,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff was diagnosed with sixth nerve palsy, zoster opthalmicus, hypertropia ofright eye, and diplopia.”

Sixth nerve palsy is a rare disorder that involves weakness of the muscles that control eye movement, resulting in double vision, headaches and severe pain around the eye.

Crawley’s case joins a growing number of similar Zostavax lawsuits filed by individuals nationwide, each involving similar claims that individuals developed shingles outbreaks, auto-immune disorders and other nerve damage due to the live zoster virus contained in the vaccine.

Given similar questions of fact and law presented in complaints 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, 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 over the Zostavax vaccine side effects.

It is ultimately expected that several thousand Zostavax cases may be brought by individuals nationwide who experienced problems after receiving the shingles vaccine.

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