Shingles Vaccine Zostavax Caused Peripheral Neuropathy, Lawsuit Alleges

  • Written by: Irvin Jackson

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The side effects of the singles vaccine Zostavax allegedly caused a Kentucky woman to develop painful and permanent nerve damage, known as peripheral neuropathy, according to a recently filed product liability lawsuit.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Rita Bishop on March 21, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, indicating that Merck & Co. sold a dangerous vaccine for prevention of shingles, and failed to adequately warn about the potential Zostavax risks.

Bishop indicates that she was inoculated with the shingles vaccine Zostavax in October 2012, which has been commonly given to older adults over the past decade as a preventative measure. However, shortly after the injection, she developed peripheral neuropathy and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuritis.

Zostavax was introduced in May 2006, as a single dose vaccine for prevention of shingles among individuals over the age of 50. It is a more potent version of the Merck chickenpox vaccine, Varivax, which contains the live varicella zoster virus. However, an alarming number of problems have been reported, where users experienced longer and more painful shingles outbreaks and other infections, which were allegedly caused by use of an “under-attenuated” version of the virus that was not sufficiently weakened to avoid reactivating the dormant virus in some users.

The lawsuit argues that Bishop and other individuals who received the vaccine eere not adequately warned about the potential health risks. The complaint indicates that Merck knew about the risks from data obtained during clinical trials before it was approved by the FDA.

“The patient information sheet, as well as the label and prescribing information for Zostavax at all times relevant hereto, did not adequately, if at all, address the risk of viral infection,” Bishop’s lawsuit states. “All that was addressed is the concern that a rash and itching might develop at the injection site. This is despite the fact that shingles was a noted occurrence during clinical trials of the vaccine.”

Given common questions of fact and law raised in Zostavax 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 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.

While all cases filed throughout the federal court system are currently centralized before Judge Bartle, 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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  1. Patricia Reply

    I received the Zostavax shingles vaccine on 7/21/17, and shortly after receiving it, I was diagnosed with Neuropathy and have been in tremendous pain ever since. I was told that I may be a little sore and swollen for a few days. Nothing else!

  2. Janet Reply

    I received both types of vaccinations, Zostervax and Shingrix. I now have painful peripheral neuropathy in both feet to a point where I have trouble sleeping at night and wearing almost any type of shoe is painful.

  3. Mary Ann Reply

    I am a 62 year old female and at the time caring for an elderly man in Bristol CT. I recieved the shingles vaccine in 2017, about 6 months after I got shingles, I couldn’t believe it. I went to urgent care and they thought it was first poison ivy, though I was always inside it didn’t respond to steroids so then they thought it was a fungus, the medicine for that didn’t help, then I finally went to my primary care doctor’s clinic and saw someone for emergency appts…it was so painful, there was like a deep pain under the rash..she pulled up pictures of shingles and agreed it looked like that, gave me medication but told me it was probably too late to help. It resolved itself in a couple more weeks. But I never heard that the vaccine could be the reason why I am having horrible problems with my feet, the pain is almost daily and starts a little while after I wake up and continues and gets worse as the evening goes on, I wake up sometimes screaming because my feet are literally on fire, I thought it had something to do with my car accident in 1998, I never thought it could be because of vaccine. It actually started about 2 1/2 years ago which would make that end of 2017. Oh my Lord, I never knew that. A lawyer contacted me once but I thought I really didn’t want to sue over getting shingles, it was very painful but it went away, my insurance covered everything but I didn’t know it could be responsible for the pain I deal with every day and getting worse until I’ve questioned whether I can go on living like this, so yes I would like to talk to a lawyer, a GOOD lawyer, one who cares more about the after effects over the payoff. The other night K woke up crying because my entire leg was on fire, like someone lit a torch under my leg, it was always in my feet, it seems to be getting worse.

  4. Sherie Reply

    I had the Zostavax shot on Oct. 6 2018 and developed neuropathy within a year. The pain in my feet is horrible and keeps me from enjoying many things in my life. I have had it for two years now.

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