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Single Dose Shingles Vaccine Zostavax Caused “Burning Rash” On Woman’s Face: Lawsuit

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According to allegations raised in a recently filed product liability lawsuit, a Washington state woman was left with a burning rash on her face after receiving the single-dose shingles vaccine Zostavax, which has been linked to reports of more severe and persistent shingles outbreaks.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Elfried Bruce in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on May 24, alleging that Merck & Co. sold a live virus vaccine that actually increases the risk of developing the condition it was designed to prevent.

Zostavax was introduced in May 2006, as a single dose vaccine for prevention of shingles among individuals over the age of 50. Amid aggressive marketing, it quickly became part of standard recommended care fo nearly all older adults. However, an alarming number of problems were linked the shingles vaccine, including infection outbreaks and other auto-immune disorders.

According to the lawsuit, Bruce received a Zostavax injection in May 2016, and immediately began to experience problems.

“Within two weeks after receiving Defendants’ Zostavax vaccine, Plaintiff suffered from an erythematous macular rash noted over her right face with burning pain,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff was ultimately diagnosed with shingles and later diagnosed with post herpetic neuralgia following chronic pain after the shingles outbreak.”

Bruce alleges that the Zostavax vaccine contains a live-virus that was not sufficiently weakened to prevent reactivation of the dormant virus in some individuals.

The case joins hundreds of similar Zostavax lawsuits over the single-shot vaccine, which has now been largely replaced by the newer Shingrix vaccine, which involves two doses.

Given similar questions of fact and law raised in the complaints filed by Bruce and other plaintiffs, 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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