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Shingles Outbreak After Zostavax Vaccine Resulted in Extreme Pain, Lawsuit Claims

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The side effects of the Zostavax vaccine caused a Montana woman to develop an extremely painful shingles outbreak, according to allegations raised in a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the vaccine, which was supposed to actually prevent the development of shingles.

Terry Rice filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on April 17, indicating that Merck & Co. sold a defective and unreasonably dangerous vaccine, which actually causes some users to develop more severe and persistent shingles outbreaks due to an “under-attenuated” version of the live virus contained in the injection.

Rice indicates that she was inoculated with the Zostavax vaccine to prevent shingles in September 2017. However, shortly after receiving the vaccine she began suffering from a shingles outbreak and extreme mid-thoracic pain.

Zostavax was introduced in May 2006, as a single dose vaccine for prevention of shingles among individuals over the age of 50, and amid aggressive marketing it quickly grew to become a part of standard recommended care for nearly all older Americans. However, an alarming number of problems from the Zostavax vaccine have been reported where users developed a shingles outbreak or suffered other auto-immune disorders caused by the use of live-virus that was not sufficiently weakened.

“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,” Rice’s 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. This is especially true given its tenuous efficacy.”

Hundreds of Zostavax shingles outbreak lawsuits are now being pursued nationwide. Given similar questions of fact and law raised in the complaints, 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.

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